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Little Travel Journal: Why Everyone Should Study Abroad

In this weeks Little Travel Journal, Lauren Lantry, BC ’17, shares her experiences travelling around Seville, letting us know why everyone should study abroud if they get the chance. 

 

 
 
When I was growing up, going to college was not optional. My parents would say, “Yes, you can become an astronaut or a stripper or whatever… but after you go to college.” The same went for studying abroad…I knew I was going to go.
 
After my older brother came back from his semester in Berlin, where he discovered he wanted to be an artist, I knew that I too wanted to travel the world, experience a new culture, learn a new language, and discover my passion.
 
But, alas, after three months of being in Europe, I’m still deciding between being an astronaut or a stripper.

While I was saying my goodbyes before I left Columbia/Barnard, I asked one of my friends why she wasn’t studying abroad. She said, very matter-a-factly, “The best education I’m going to receive is right here.” She has a point. Columbia is an ivy-league institution, with some incredible professors whose classes change your life. There is no doubt about that.

But this friend grew up in New York City, is going to school in New York City, has summer internships in New York City, and I am willing to bet my future stripper career that she will get a job in New York City after graduation.

It’s certainly not my place to judge if you want to spend your life in the same place, even if it is the greatest city in the world. However all I say is that you should really think about that decision.

Living abroad and traveling has taught me more than any book, or any professor (even if it is Professor Carnes) could ever teach me. I’ve learned about Spanish cuisine (you should never order beer with an asparagus tapa, but you should with croquettes), what to do if you lock yourself in a bathroom in a foreign country, how to find a friend without any cell phones, how to plan and execute an excellent weekend trip to Barcelona, and how to interact with people of different origins, religions, and cultures other than my own.

 

 

However, “studying” abroad isn’t all about discotecas and eating your way through Europe. It’s also about discovering and discussing important issues around the world and at home. While being away from the United States, I have realized how blessed I am to have a U.S. Passport, but I’ve also learned about how the United States is perceived abroad. The two questions I am asked about the United States, from literally every single person I have met here, are: “Do you feel unsafe walking around the streets because everyone is allowed to have a gun?” or, “Is racism really as bad as it seems?”

After coming home to Seville from a weekend trip in Madrid to the Oregon shooting, or coming home from a weekend trip to Morocco to the events happening in Missouri and all over the United States, I have finally responded with, yes. “Yes, I do feel unsafe. And no, buying a gun will not help me feel safer.” And, “Yes, racism is really as bad as it seems.” It’s a horrible truth to come to terms with.

I’m not writing this piece as a political statement. I’m writing this because I am begging each and every one of you to study abroad. When else in your life will you have a set limit of months to go to a foreign country with the knowledge that you will eventually come back to your comfort zone, wherever that may be (for me, it’s probably the fourth floor of Butler). I guarantee you will learn things about yourself that you didn’t know before. My brother learned he wanted to be an artist, and I learned my political stance on some very important issues.

 

 

As I near the end of my time abroad, my feelings are so bittersweet. I want nothing more than to spend Christmas with my family, but I’ve loved my time traveling, learning, and meeting new people. Especially in the wake of what happened in Beirut, Paris, San Bernardino, and many other places all over the world, I think it is especially important to travel the world, make connections with people from all over, stay in hostels with total strangers (which may piss you off when they try and hang-dry their sweaters and leave puddles all over the floor), and fall in love with cities you only dreamed about visiting.

By doing this, you will unify yourself with the rest of the world – and the “us” vs. “them” mentality we grew up with in the United States will slowly disappear, and be replaced by the chorus of high school musical: “we’re all in this together.”

*this article is a personal piece and does not reflect the views of Her Campus Media*

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