Go away: Why everyone should study abroad

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Setting: The simplest reason. You get to leave the country for a while, eat great food, meet new people and explore amazing cities. Plus, you get college credit for it.

Beliefs: People are amazing. Foreign people are, too. Despite the differences in beliefs and culture throughout the United States and the SVSU community, we all share many commonalities in thought. The second you get off a plane in another country, you realize that your viewpoints and the viewpoints of your community aren’t the only ones in the world. You will begin to realize that people who think differently are not necessarily wrong, and neither are you. Your perception of the world is simply different. Once you see that truth, you begin to celebrate differences rather than fear them. This creates a society of people willing to share ideas and less likely to act harshly towards one another. A friend of mine in Spain said to me after hours in a restaurant talking about politics, “Nunca vamos a estar de acuerdo. Pero todo bien.” (Translation: “We’ll never agree. But all good.”)

Discomfort: Studying abroad forces you out of your comfort zone in many aspects: different customs, different languages, a new routine, distance from a familiar environment. These fears amongst others contribute to the number of students traveling abroad remaining low.

However, it should be recognized that these fears are precisely why studying abroad makes you a better person. If you can navigate the bus systems in a foreign city, in a foreign language, your confidence inevitably goes up. You’ve likely been in the same comfortable routine for most of your life. Inserting yourself into a new environment can help you see which aspects of your life you’ve truly been enjoying and which you’ve simply adopted unconsciously into the daily schedule. It may be uncomfortable, but it’s surely worth it. Your time in a strange new land will make you look introspectively at yourself. It will clarify what you value and who you want to be.

Friendships: You meet an incredible amount of fascinating, kind, laughing people when you travel. In Spain, I met people from 27 different countries. Yes, I counted. They came from every continent on Earth, except Antarctica, and were different in so many ways. You learn from them and they learn from you over the course of your time spent together. These friendships are ones that last forever, as the experiences you share are not soon forgotten. Plus, now you have a place to stay in countries around the world.

Whatever your reason for not taking the leap, just buy the plane ticket. SVSU has affordable trips. A semester in Taiwan is tuition and room free. Go on a two-week trip if that is all you’re comfortable with. You will never regret it.

Zach Vega is a political science junior. Reach him at [email protected].