I studied abroad in college – it wasn’t my idea. I was undoubtedly nervous about it as I was someone that previously thought going to Florida from Ohio without my parents was a big deal. Rewind to my senior year of high school, I did just that; I went to Florida on the band trip. Side note – I still can’t tell you why I was in band; I was horrible at playing every instrument I touched. I have to imagine my participation and lack of skill in band was an avenue or push toward a next step from the universe... And a pardon from my bandmates.
Post Florida, it was time to prepare for moving to college and as my parents said, “college is an hour away from home, but you will make it as far as you want.” That knowledge gave me another push that I needed to get out of my comfort zone and make the move to a new place. That move built more confidence in me, just like travel. I didn’t know my roommate, the area, what my job would be or even my major. I just knew it was the next move.
Looking back, family and the universe have always had a way of pushing me toward my destination with a subtle next step. Two years later when I had found a new level of comfort, came a new scarier nudge; a professor and a classmate encouraged me to sign up for a summer study abroad program in Costa Rica. I mark that trip as the most life changing as it was what set me on my path and led me here trying to make study abroad more accessible. Through all types of travel, I have realized that what makes it life changing is that it provides you with a new setting to grow as a person without the concern of everyday tasks. Your focus shifts to the most important component of existing – living things. This is one of many reasons study abroad and travel are essential.
As human beings we have a tendency to center our worth around the things – the things we do, the things we have, the things we have accomplished and the things that need done. In the grand scheme of things, none of it truly matters without having gained respect and concern for our surroundings; namely humans, animals, plants and the like. Travel lifts the weight of the ‘things equation’ by eliminating the day to day grind and naturally allowing us to focus on relationships, and the people we interact with daily. It’s about how we improvise when we’re without those literal things… unless you’re one of those that pack an outfit for your every mood. When we travel, we slow down and speed up all at the same time! Suddenly, we’re interested in the people we meet and the experiences to be collected. Study abroad provides a prolonged version of this: here are your people, here are experiences, and here is your luggage – make the best of it. Travel of all types forces us to connect with ourselves, our families, a host family, our kids, our friends, our coworkers and other beings in general (ask the dog that enjoyed my pocketed rice in Costa Rica). No matter the type of travel, we are forced to connect better with those around us – our proof is in the many memories made in a single trip. Disagree? Take a look at your pictures… Each photo represents a memorable moment worth reliving!