March 24, 2012
Why Study Abroad?
If you want to grow as a person, the best thing you can do is travel. Do it in college.
|“||Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.||”|
|— Mark Twain|
I have been invited to talk about study abroad at the Cultural Journeys undergraduate conference. I’ll be speaking after three students who have actually participated in study abroad programs, so I wonder just how much I’ll add to the conversation. Students tend to be more convincing than faculty in these matters.
I truly believe that study abroad—and travel in general—makes us better people. I know that for me, the two times I have taught in London have been two of the best experiences of my professional and personal life. They have made me a better teacher and a better person. I’m pretty sure that most people would benefit from getting the heck out of Georgia for a summer. But how to convince them?
I decided to use music and images to convey my enthusiasm. So, I put together a video of my photography from my 2009 and 2011 travels, along with some words of wisdom about travel from others more eloquent than I. Check out my video.
We Americans spend so much of our lives constructing ever-shrinking bubbles that define us and isolate us. With money as the ultimate pursuit, all of our decisions are in many ways determined: how to make the most; how to protect it; how to pass it on and to whom. It often seems that chasing the American Dream closes us off to opportunities we would otherwise engage, like foreign travel. Most of my students here in central Georgia were born here and they will die here, without ever traveling far from the lives they have built. This is not necessarily a criticism—we all need our comfort zones—but without getting outside the bubble, it becomes smaller and it in turn makes us smaller. New experiences takes risk, and that’s the very opposite of comfort and security.
Interestingly, according to Insider Higher Ed, more American women take advantage of study abroad programs than men do. Some of the conclusions are interesting.
Yes, travel is a risk. Yes, it can be expensive. However, this is what we pursue money for. If money can’t help us expand our lives in meaningful ways, what good is it? Of all the things to invest in, travel and self-discovery should be among the most important.