Lessons from Travels Abroad
Why is overseas travel important during your college years? There are multiple answers. First, travel gives you the opportunity to experience the world with all your senses. While you initially take in an unfamiliar city or country with your eyes, the sounds, tastes, smells and the things you touch all contribute to a unique memory of the place. At the beginning, your senses are more acute until your body and mind have time to adjust. Travel is very tactile. Second, you get to go beyond the confines of the classroom and the textbook and apply your knowledge. For example, learning Chinese in lecture is restrictive because it is not always possible to get instant feedback on your language skills. If you travel there, on the other hand, you’re forced to use the language to communicate, and you get to take part culturally as well. Third, you learn a lot about yourself–your preferences, abilities, and beliefs. I decided to travel overseas because my parents instilled in me the desire to understand and appreciate new places. I wanted the chance to travel independently of them through my college experience, and so I chose to study abroad. Are you thinking about traveling overseas while you’re in college? The goal of this post is to give you ideas for your future travels.
During the semester I traveled to Paris, France and Edinburgh, Scotland. What these trips have in common is that they were short getaways from college, and were also eye-opening experiences. When I went to Paris I had the mindset that the French are rude, arrogant people. It turns out that several people said ‘Bonjour’ to me, and I said ‘Merci’ a lot in two days! I realized the stereotype I placed on them was not fair: people are kind everywhere, and that the way we perceive others based on cultural norms create rifts in society. Enter a foreign country with an attitude of respect, as you are a guest, and be generous with others even if you do not understand them. My friend and I also had a few funny tourist moments, as she thought we actually needed more Metro tickets and we thought the Bastille was more than a simple monument. Don’t take yourself too seriously when you travel; it’s a lot more fun to laugh about things.