As broke, stressed and sleep-deprived college students, studying abroad is far from being convenient, so why do we continue to jump on planes and head for far away places?
A pessimist might tell you that it’s obviously for a lower drinking age or extended vacations in faraway lands but I like to believe that we, as a generation, are much deeper than that.
We don’t study abroad for the European clothes or the tropical tan lines—that’s what spring break for. Those of us who give up almost a month or two of their summer to take approximately eight credits of classes in about four weeks are passionate about more than what’s advertised on traveling brochures.
We’re in it for the painful struggle of learning a new language and having a local glance upon us with confusion. We strive to try that skeptical and odd food that we end up missing when we get home. Our goal is to meet new and different people who will let us temporarily step into their lives and explore their ways of living.
Yet, it’s the priceless experiences that holds us at our core. The hiking ankle-deep through mud
in a tropical rainforest, the nightly dinners with our host families, getting lost in an unfamiliar city and exploring places you’re afraid you will never see again.
Culture shock is something we embrace like a breath of fresh air and some of us even experience a bigger culture shock upon returning home.
Personally, I will never forget the grace and kindness of the people I met. I lost track of the number
of times my host mom exclaimed, “Tranquila!” her way of telling me not to worry. Even the random stranger who gave me a piece of gum when I felt like passing out on a public bus resonates in my memory.
Every story is different. Each of us has something that we get addicted to when we study abroad. That’s why we do what we do. It’s a thrilling, never-ending habit that we just can’t kick. We throw our hearts out to the world to see what they will catch.