A study abroad experience is good for you. I am unaware of anyone that would disagree with that statement. It is a time to explore the world and learn about different cultures and ways of life. It allows students to relate to new people by crossing language barriers and customs, all while sharing in the human experience. It is a chance for students to better appreciate differences and similarities to their own culture, from wherever they come from. From my own experience, I am learning more about what it means to be a Midwesterner, about what it means to be Italian, and about the rich history in both this temporary home and where I have established my roots.
But how will this help me in a career after college?
As a student, it is easy to get overwhelmed with the future. What will happen after college? Will I survive and pay bills on time? Should I have saved more money for a rainy day? Will study abroad even help me with my career goals? While I cannot answer every question, I definitely answer that, yes, study abroad will help you with whatever you decide to make your life’s passion.
For myself, I often wonder how this art history intensive semester will apply to my intended career as a physician. Art history and biology seem vastly different, and yet, I know that by having studied abroad, I will be better able to treat my patients.
From this semester abroad, I have learned to relate. I have gained a better appreciation for a culture with values and an outlook on life different than my own. I have learned what it means to invest in people, to be more intentional, and to not be bogged down by a schedule. Planning and having a career is important, but being present and keeping people at the center of what you do is more so. Coming from a perspective of life as a checklist, Italy has taught me to let go and let people in.
Not only have I learned about people, but, in general, we study abroad students have a new confidence of our abilities. We made the bold and risky decision to go. We chose to pack our belongings into a meager suitcase (or two) and leave a comfort zone of safety and familiarity. We wanted an experience that would enrich us. Yes, we are taking classes, but we are also exploring our limits. This boldness and the desire to do something different and the willingness to leave home behind is a testament to our adaptability. In a career, we will be the ones who will push the envelope and will not be afraid to take chances. We will be the ones who are willing to try something new, no matter the terror of the foreign concept. As study abroad students, we will be able to relate to others from all walks of life because we were challenged to do so in a vastly different place. We will walk away from our experiences with an understanding of people.
I know that will help us down any path we choose.
The world awaits…discover it.