The experience of traveling overseas is invaluable no matter what it costs
Over this past summer, I had my first overseas trip via Ferris’ Study Away program. I spent two weeks in Italy and France studying philosophy and absorbing some of the greatest pieces of art and historical sites that the world has to offer.
I first pondered the idea of studying abroad during my sophomore year of college, and over a year later, there I was standing in the Colosseum. The orientation and preparation prior to the trip warned of the potential culture shock and homesickness that may occur.
This idea of culture shock is something that I chose to embrace, rather than try to avoid. Our cell phones did not work, and internet access was not commonly available due to our hectic schedule of sightseeing and venturing into the streets of Rome, Florence and Paris. Technological withdrawal was but a small sacrifice for the experience.
Our days were filled with long walks and subway rides to get to each historic site, but our nights and everywhere in between consisted of philosophical discussion and bonding over Italian dinners and French escargot.
That is the subject that I ventured into Europe to study, philosophy, and more specifically, hermeneutics. Hermeneutics was something I was unfamiliar with before doing my assigned readings for the trip, but it is actually quite an accessible and interesting subject.
While I chose to use the Ferris Study Away program to have my overseas conquest, I feel that it is not necessary to do it for the credit, but more for the experience and cultural fulfillment that is felt after returning home.
Yes, the trip was expensive and yes, my bank account suffered a massive blow, but I looked back knowing that it was all worth it and that I would happily do it all over again. I must say though two weeks is far too short to absorb three of the most famous European cities, it gave me enough of a taste to know that I will return as frequently as possible. I guess dropping a coin in the Trevi Fountain worked.
It is quite an interesting experiment to put yourself through, that is, throwing yourself in a foreign culture where you do not know the language or customs. It is however an adventure that will leave you wanting to experiment further and understand the world in a less ethnocentric manner.
Even the language barrier alone is fun to try to overcome. One night in Rome while a few of us were wandering the city, we decided to walk home instead of taking the subway. We got turned around and were suddenly at a loss for directions or someone who spoke fluent English.
We quickly found some young Italians who tried their best to give us directions, and we even resorted to using our best Spanish, which is actually quite helpful due to the fact that they are both Latin-based languages. We eventually found familiar roads that we had walked earlier in the day and found our way back to the hotel.
While the nightlife was a fun portion of the trip, it stood no comparison to standing in the Roman Forum where our Westernized political process began, looking at the ceiling and back wall of the Sistine chapel, or debating amongst each other which David Michelangelo represented in his famous statue located in Florence.
While the fulfillment of walking through the Louvre and looking down from the top of the Eiffel tower were excellent, I found our visit to the Pere Lachaise cemetery particularly enjoyable.
We walked through the star studded cemetery taking pictures with graves including Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust, Chopin, Moliere and many others. It was like being in a museum capturing some of the greatest minds and talents of the past few centuries.
After visiting the two countries and getting outside of the bleak Midwest, I had more trouble adjusting back to the U.S. than I did adjusting to Europe. Driving back from the Detroit airport, I stopped at a Taco Bell for a quick dinner, which I quickly realized was a major mistake.
This trip has made me want to travel even more and understand cultural differences to new depths. While I may have been broke afterward, it was absolutely worth the money and time to have access to such a wonderful experience.
So I will reiterate, travel as much as you can, even if you are broke afterward. It will not disappoint.