Sunday, October 25, 2009

Study Abroad: The Homebody vs. The Jetsetter, Perspective #2

I asked one of my favorite bloggers, Melissa, to follow up on my study abroad post with a guest post about her own experience abroad, since she offers a totally different point of view than me. Make sure to check out her blog-- she's hilarious! And C., I hope this helps or at least doesn't confuse you further!

Hi Things I Said And Meant To Say readers! My name is Melissa, and I write the blog Duoly Noted. Michelle and I met on the blogasphere, and the other day she asked if I would be willing to write a guest blog on my study abroad experience. Obviously! I love her blog and I love talking about my time abroad.

I went to college at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA, and much like at Williams, over half of the junior class studies abroad. At first I really wanted to study abroad, but then after researching my options I decided it was too expensive. So I took a position as a Resident Assistant and waved goodbye to all my friends as they set off on their semester or year long adventures.

It did not take long before I started regretting my decision. All my friends were emailing me with stories of living abroad and I found myself longing to be a part of that experience. One day I just decided that I had to make it happen. I researched student loans (the program I wanted to do did not transfer my scholarships)- and about two months later I found myself on a plane to London, England where I would attend the University of Westminster via Butler University's study abroad program. It was the best decision I ever made, I fully recommend doing a program that is not affiliated with your university. You meet new people, and have a different experience then everybody else.

Almost all people come back from their year abroad gushing about how transformative their experience was for them- but believe me, I have heard my fair share of horror stories. I think before you go you really have to look hard at whether you can afford it, whether you can fit it into your schedule, and quite frankly whether you have the ability to be independent for six months to a year. Because when you are in another country, you are on your own. I have heard stories of people failing out of school, running out of money, having major medical issues, and being so incredibly homesick they just left. All things you have to consider before you leave. I ended up at an emergency room in both England and Switzerland, all in the mere 6 months I was abroad...but that is another story.

For me, it cliche as it sounds...a transformative experience. I had never been out of the country before and the second I stepped of the plane I just soaked up every single moment. I lived in an international dorm with other students in the programs, but also students from Bangladesh, Germany, Italy, England, Ireland, Iraq, you name it. We all became friends and went out together...uh, a lot. I had the luxury of going to whatever museum I wanted to in London (they are all free!) and spent my 2 week spring break backpacking through Europe and riding the Eurrail with nothing but a backpack. It was amazing and something I had dreamed of doing my entire life.

The classroom was also a great experience. I really recommend studying through a program where you are physically at an international university (versus a transplant university where you are at the location, but only with students from your school). When I studied abroad the Iraq War was in full swing, and as a political science major I gained a whole new perspective sitting in a classroom with refugees from Iraq. My worldview changed immensely, and affects my political beliefs to this day.

Not everybody can study abroad, and I understand that. But if you are blessed enough to have the opportunity you should seize it, even if just for the summer. I always told myself that I would travel after college...but the truth of the matter is that life takes over after college. I went to law school, I got married, and other then vacations I haven't left the country at all. And vacations aren't LIVING abroad. I would love to live abroad, but I really don't see the opportunity to live abroad in my future (although I would never rule it out). So really, my college years were my only opportunity.

The truth is, college is a beautiful little bubble where you have the ability to seize so many opportunities that are much more difficult to grasp after you in my opinion you should take every opportunity that can you. My study abroad loans are coming due...but I would pay them back triple for that experience. It was the best investment I ever made.

1 comment:

  1. Mmmm study abroad. Where to start....
    Well I studied abroad too (as Melissa knows, but not everyone else does), and, well... it was awesome, yes, but had not-awesome parts of it too.
    I went abroad for the whole year to Italy. But really, I hated my college town. Like with a serious passion. Loved the college, hated the town. So of COURSE Italy was better. But I did spend most weekends taking off to all the other countries in Europe (and Asia) and even though I "lived" there, my classes were in English at a school only for students from my college and I lived with a bunch of other students from my school. And I only learned Italian because I forced myself to, by signing up for classes that were in Italian. Most people didn't learn any.
    That said, it was awesome because I doubt I'd be able to visit all those 20 countries at any other point in my life. And while it wasn't exactly "living" in Italy, it still kind of was, and I'm not positive I'll get to do something like that again.
    But it only matters if you like to travel. Because I do, but I've since learned that I like to travel in a much different way than we did back then.
    All that said and done, it was totally worth it to study abroad, and it was awesome, and waaayyyy better than spending another year in my terrible college town.
    But Michelle, I'm sure you won't regret staying behind. If you really want to travel, you will. I'm sure of it.