By Emily Houp, Contributing Writer
“Well, the way I see it, there’s a lot left to see.” This statement, spoken by a kind Scottish man who offered my friend and I a ride while hitchhiking to the cliffs of Mohr, deeply resonated with me as a person who considers herself fairly well-traveled. Mark had recently sold his house, along with the majority of his possessions, and packed up his car with the necessities because he decided it was time to “start living.” Mark told me he had spent his entire life learning, but had yet to experience life. For some reason, the past 50 or so years didn’t count.
Typically, college is not the best time to sell all your belongings, pack up your hand-me-down Corolla (RIP) and hit the road for some grand adventure, but it is the time to seek out opportunities that we won’t always get post-college life (especially when drowning in student debt). Studying abroad is the perfect solution for those who dream of traveling, are looking for a little independence and some incredibly liberating (and attainable) adventure. It is one of the greatest, most beneficial, sometimes-frustrating, growing-pain filled, intimidating and joyful experiences I believe any university has to offer.
Perspective is a powerful friend to have, and abandoning comfort zones for longer than a week or two provides adequate time to be completely immersed in a new culture, to really experience the good and the bad and meeting and interacting with people who exist outside of the Bible Belt. Not to knock short term trips, but time is unparalleled in its ability to strengthen and deepen perspective. Marcel Proust said it best, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
Although traveling abroad opens up doors to really see some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, it’s also an incredible opportunity for new experiences and perspective change that will genuinely stay with you the rest of your life. Every part of who you are as an American, as a Christian, and as a general observer of the world is challenged when you become a foreigner (a.k.a. a clueless tourist). With those challenges comes conflict, which ultimately results in growth; growth in one’s ability to love and live outside of preconceived notions of the world and its inhabitants. Studying abroad was a pivotal point in my life, academically and spiritually.
Often I find myself repeating Mark’s words in my head, a simple reminder of the task at hand; to be a student, an admirer, an explorer, and a participant of this world. There is a lot left to experience and a lot of learning that the world has out there for us. Studying abroad is like being given a master key that unlocks endless opportunities to do so. It makes me smile to picture Mark, a walking stick in one hand and a list of ‘places to see’ in the other, relaying ridiculous Donald Trump facts to the next hitchhikers he encounters on his journey.