I’ve always dreamed of traveling the world. There’s something so picturesque about the idea of trotting down the cobblestones of a little French town, baguette in hand. Or of climbing the steep, rocky walls of Switzerland’s Matterhorn. As a writer, I’ve dumped these charming scenes into my passion for writing and began creating fictionalized accounts of absurd characters inhabiting ironically beautiful European neighborhoods. I’ve visited every corner of the world, seen the sun rise through the clouds in the east and set in a brilliant chaos of color over the western hemisphere, through the novels that now sit upright on my bookshelf.
In reality, financial limitations prevented me from fulfilling my dreams of traveling. I struggled more personally with this financial handicap throughout high school. Many of my classmates traveled around the world with their families, bringing back with them vibrant stories of the unique experiences that they had while abroad. While my friends spent their summers traveling, I spent my summers financially drowning. As summers went by, I watched the furniture disappear from my home until there was nothing left. I watched my childhood fade away as an interminable dust floated around the empty rooms of an unfamiliar home. I often recall how, in that house, I left behind a mural that I had begun sketching out on the wall of my bedroom; it was a grand collage of major landmarks in different countries. It represented all the places that I wanted to visit, framed by the tall, swaying palm trees of Hawai'i. This mural served as a temporary escape from my reality. More importantly, however, it carried in it my dream of a more beautiful life.
For me, building a beautiful life began with experiencing what the world had to offer. Grasping at this dream of traveling, I applied to Gettysburg College with the intention of studying abroad. I knew that Gettysburg encourages studying abroad and has an easy application process. After two years had gone by, it was finally time to make preparations. I applied for all the financial aid I could, and ended up receiving multiple scholarships, including an IES Abroad scholarship and the International Gilman Scholarship. When the time came to apply for a passport and visa, I chose France as my destination. I had been studying the language for six years and decided that it was time to become fluent in it. I often recall how one of my classmates said to me, “Why major in French when you can just go to France and learn it?”
My preparation for studying abroad has been both a mental and physical struggle. Preparing to travel outside of the United States for the first time and for a long time has been challenging; after all, I’ve never even been inside of an airport before! However, I know that this unimaginable experience will be worth it. I’m in the process of buying my plane and train tickets and packing my 50-pound suitcase. I’ll be flying to France with one of my friends from Gettysburg who is also in the IES Abroad Nantes program. This will make the trip less hectic and more enjoyable. Preparing to study abroad also means remembering to visit my friends one last time before leaving—and finding ways to keep in touch.
To any student that is considering studying abroad—take a leap of faith. Life begins when we learn to take risks and throw ourselves into new experiences. Leaving one’s home country is an exciting opportunity, and it is often more accessible and affordable through college. Although studying abroad seems like a distant dream, it can be made possible with a study-abroad advisor and financial aid. Visit your school’s Study-Abroad Center to find out more information about studying abroad.
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I became inspired to travel abroad after reading the book "Banner in the Sky" by James Ullman. Since then, I've dreamed of visiting Switzerland and climbing the Matterhorn during the day and snowboarding down the Swiss mountains at night!