I cried before I left for France last summer. No, not out of joy. I actually bawled at the thought of leaving home when I’d only just returned from my first year of college. Why did I sign up for this study abroad trip? Apparently it was a whimsical sense of adventure that, a few months later, left me crying myself to sleep.
After a month in Paris, though, I felt my trip was surreal — full of croissants and walks in the garden and famous paintings I’ve only seen online. It was full of carefree adventure and a thirst to learn about another culture. I met Parisians who were witty and sassy and charming all at once. I cried when I came back because it was so wonderful.
Now almost a year later, I’m less nervous as I prepare to intern in Japan for a month. I’m excited to teach students in four cities about English and leadership. My study abroad program prepared me for this upcoming experience by thrusting me into an unknown land, even though the destinations are halfway across the world from one another. If I can pack up and travel across the Atlantic Ocean by myself knowing no one on the program, I can pack up and travel across the Pacific Ocean as well. One month.
Perhaps some employers see study abroad as less valuable than spending a summer interning, working or taking major-specific classes. But I gained even more than the history lectures taught me — a new perspective on the world about how small and big it is, how to communicate with people whose language I don’t speak, how to miraculously get around a city without the Internet, how to manage a budget (well…) and how to stay calm and problem solve when lost.
Studying abroad made me more confident and independent, both of which make me more employable.
Traveling now feels like the hip thing for millennials to do in order to live life and also to change their lives. I have friends studying abroad in Florence, London, Bangkok and Edinburgh, and more friends visiting places for pleasure and philanthropy. It’s something good little millennials are expected to do and Instagram about. I don’t know whether this is the culture of my school, my friends or my generation. Luckily, traveling is something I genuinely want to do; we crave experiences.
Now I’m eager for my time in Japan, not worried. This time it’s not study abroad, but a professional internship that will give me skills in education. I hope the trip will be a mutual exchange of learning and love.
What did traveling abroad teach you?
This post was originally published on LinkedIn’s student blog.