Consider Studying Abroad Outside Europe

Study abroad is a great opportunity to explore cultures other than your own. However, at Northwestern the continent of choice is often Europe. Non-western areas such as Africa and the Middle East often go under-explored by undergrads. Perhaps this is because the perception of both areas are still negative in the media and in western mentality.

When I tell people of my interests in the Middle east, they often respond with barely contained shock. "Would I have to wear a burqa? It sucks to be a woman there, the men there are so terrible." Overall, the consensus is the Middle East is a backwards, no woman's land that will seek to police my body. I will not pretend as though there are not more gains to be done in advancing women's rights in the Middle East. There is but there are also many activists who are pushing for more legal protections for women against violence or marital rape. However, this ignores the vast diversity in the Middle East. One country students might consider to broaden their horizons is Tunisia, with its strong French influences. Tunisia can provide the experience of a Middle Eastern country without some of the barriers a female student might face in other similar countries. Africa fares no much better in public mind. Africa is often portrayed as a place in need of salvation from the western world. This ignores the oppression and violence colonial powers have inflicted on these nations that filled the coffers of Europe while draining Africa's population of resources. In actuality, there are many safe places in Africa students can explore to get a better idea of what the continent is truly like now.

Study abroad to non-western countries can only serve to teach students about more complex realities. Regions with great economic potential that has gone unrealized due to policies that benefit the west at the expense of health and education of locals. Studying abroad in countries with a non-western history or developing economies gives students the opportunity to see for themselves the lives of the people there in both its beauty and ugliness so that they might come to their own conclusions. There is  so much to learn from these places with a culture history so different from our own. They are hidden gems the world has yet to fully appreciate.