Monday, August 6, 2012

To Travel Abroad or Not to Travel Abroad

  Years ago I had a dream that would turn out to have a profound impact on my life. It was the beginning of the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college. I went to bed like any other night in a summer that I could already tell was going to be another routine two month break in which I lounged around with my friends from high school. However, that night I had the most incredibly vivid dream that I was walking through the old cobblestone streets of Europe with dark, swollen rain clouds racing in above me. There were gas lamps lit and local residents scurrying through the streets to finish whatever errands they were running. I however was apparently out for a leisurely stroll in this dream, because I meandered from shop window to shop window with no concern for impending storm.
  When I woke up the next morning I knew exactly what I would be doing that summer. I was going to Europe. I rushed down to the STA office that I knew of near campus and within an hour I had booked a one month tour through Europe starting in just over three weeks! The travel agent helped me send out a rush passport to San Francisco so that I would have it in time for the trip. After that, I counted down the days until I left.
  I have to be honest though, my parents were not as thrilled as I was about this. They were pretty upset that I had gone and blown all of my money on a trip like that without consulting them. The truth was that I knew they would have talked me out of it. They were right, it was a lot of money to spend to do something I knew so little about. They had never been to Europe and they were concerned that I was going to go without any friends or family. In the end however, it turned out to be one of the best trips of my life and one that would lead me to want to give back to the world with my life's work.
  Without that crazy month in Europe, I may never have acted on my desire to travel. I visited over a dozen countries on that trip and I have been to nearly a dozen more since. Striking out on my own introduced me to new countries and languages that gave me a greater depth of character and appreciation for others in the world. It gave me confidence in my interactions with others and taught me  to be calm and clear in potentially frustrating communication situations. Most importantly it gave me perspective. The world is enormous, and it is an incredibly small world as well. The people I met on that trip and others since live thousands of miles from me, and the things I do impact them. I may never have realized how powerful each of us is if I had not taken the leap, left my home and country and become a world traveller.
  Some students struggle with whether or not they should get out and travel or study abroad. If you want my opinion, I say you should get out there and do it. And remember that the people you meet are just like you no matter their cultural differences.

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