Studying abroad is really, really cool. You get to see new places, meet new people, and learn about a culture other than your own. I was lucky enough to have the privilege of studying abroad over winter break my junior year of college. Going to India for those four short weeks totally changed my life and my outlook on American culture. It’s been a while since I was in India, but I’ve still got a little nugget of wisdom I feel I need to share.
You can travel while standing still.
Wherever you go to school, or work, or play, there are people everywhere who have experiences different than yours. Maybe they’re from another country. Maybe they have different political views than you do. Whatever the case may be, the point I’m trying to make here is that it’s important to surround yourself with people who are different than you. So often we cling to the familiar and only associate with people who have backgrounds similar to our own. I’m not saying we have to ditch all our friends, but I am saying that we need to really open our minds.
In my opinion, where I went to school, international students were not treated very well. When I was in India, I was extremely grateful to have local students to show me around. We were assigned ‘buddies,’ and they would bring us around their friends, even on the weekends when they didn’t have to. Why don’t American students do that? We have so much to learn from those students. They come from another country. Befriending someone from another culture only expands your knowledge. It shouldn’t be embarrassing.
So here’s my challenge for you: talk to the people around you. Stop and marvel at the way they view the world. Ask about their home country. Ask what they think of yours. The result could really surprise you.