Why You Should Travel and Study Abroad

“The world is changing, and Canadian society has to be equipped to succeed in a different kind of world.”- Roland Paris.

Dreams of traveling the world have never been lost for me. I remember Carrie Bradshaw, Manhattan heartache, and Paris. Julia Roberts, white wine, love-dazed, in Italy. Yaa Gyasi, white sand, spirits, and Ghana. Through these films, I’ve always had memories of beautiful women from around the globe, realizing their homes are moving entities.

Migration is the purest form of freedom. As a child, I traversed between countries and cultures, state-lines, and coast sides. I re-imagined my storytelling in adopted vernacular and discovered my native tongue, continents removed from its homeland. And in all of this moving, I uncovered just how beautiful the world is.

A privilege of living in a first-world country is that migration is no longer a branch tipping off of survival. Instead, the act of moving for many of us here in Canada is an aspect of our ordinary lives. We no longer move to grow and discover, instead we migrate temporarily and within a bubble of comfort and expectation.

As university and college students, we are perhaps at the most crucial ending point of our childhood. We study in the borderland between adulthood and responsibility, and teenage-hood and constricted movement. While everyone’s experience drastically differs in access to resources and privilege which affords us different opportunities and perspectives on travel, the possibility to study abroad is still a chance that every single student should consider.

A 2016 Canadian study found that only 11 per cent of all Canadian university students spent time studying internationally during their years in school. This could be for many reasons, including lack of accessibility, financial constraints, fear for safety, misinformation, and lacking information. 

For as long as I could dream of going to college or university, I imagined the semester or year I would spend abroad. These dreams were made possible through circumstance and awareness. Because I had grown up migrating through different cultures and was raised in a cross-continental family, migration was something that felt second-nature to me. But, many students have not had these same experiences of privilege that have allowed me to have the dreams I do. 

Even so, studying abroad is potentially the most fulfilling and valuable experience a young person, especially a student, can have throughout their education. And so, I’m here to make a case for packing your bags and leaving Canada, whether traditionally through an exchange program, or on your own terms through an independent adventure. 

  1. 1. Appreciate the world while you still can

    We’re all aware of the increasingly terrifying climate crisis and the ever growing economic wealth gap. These issues and their effects are already trickling down on upcoming generations such as our own, Generation Z. 

    For many of us, there may come a day when travelling the world will be not only irresponsible because of carbon footprints, but impossible because of rising costs. Though it is unfair that we must bear the consequences of generations’ past actions, it is our job to be consciously aware of the state of the world and the way that we contribute to its continuous livelihood. 

    As a traveller, I want to appreciate the world in all its beauty without causing harm. With the way that politicians and world leaders are responding to climate change, we may not have much time left to do so. 

  2. 2. Collect life stories

    The most fantastic part of being alive is all the stories we get to tell while we’re here. All the experiences we have contributed to the building of this world full of incredible, chaotic, beautiful moments in life. We tell stories as a way of connecting to others, and through the memories and moments we share with others, we build collective humanity and a shared experience of survival. 

  3. 3. Uplift the humanity of marginalized communities

    While studying abroad, you may travel to a country where communities of people are marginalized and disenfranchised. Often tourism leads to the displacement of already constricted groups of people and the exploitation of their service and culture. Because of this reality, it is important as consumers of other cultures and land that we do our part to be completely transparent in our desires to travel. 

    It is imperative to minimize the amount that we add dysfunction and displacement to Indigenous peoples’ land and lives. Not only is it our job as migrators but also as privileged people.