Okay so I'm back! I thought for a second there I was going to shut down Girl in Love with the World, but I just could not resist writing and blogging while I study abroad in Morocco.
Yes, that's right, Morocco! A new country and a new continent for me. Already I'm enjoying the crazy smells and sights of the souks and old medinas. I'll share plenty of that on here with time, but right now I want to speak a little about study abroad.
Everyone knows there are benefits of study abroad--a more conscious world viewpoint; experiences in different cultures; an expanded palette in food, music, dance, etc.; maybe even proficiency or practice in a foreign language. All of which are amazing. But I think probably more than half of the students who go abroad list these things on their applications, but do not fully experience them. There really should only be one pre-requisite for study abroad: open-mindedness. Without the willingness to be outside of your comfort zone, you can hear, see, and experience new and different lifestyles without changing yourself. To learn is to take in new information and be able to use it; to allow your mindset to change and alter. And from what I've seen on social media and heard in conversation (by no means take this as a definitive study of American students abroad), study abroad does not always change students.
I know that a good student, someone with the acceptance and openness I speak of, can benefit and grow from an experience abroad no matter where they are. However, sometimes I have a sneaking suspicion that they chose to study abroad in a place purely for the nightlife and the instagram photos. I'm not against having some fun or taking lots of pictures, but this can all be done at home. Better to be motivated by an interest in another culture and the possibility of meeting new people there.
While everyone travels differently, I wonder if students abroad are challenging themselves. England or Australia are amazing places, worth studying and living in, but I think it's important to travel beyond cultures and languages that are so close to your own. I will admit, part of studying abroad in North Africa for me is the thrill of the challenge, of the amount of cultural difference between the United States and here. What it boils down to is pushing your boundaries; which, of course, are different for everyone. So maybe its difficult for someone to travel alone, even to a place which speaks English, and interact with locals and other travelers. Or maybe a student is enrolled in a program with other Americans, but looks for chances to learn the local language. This simple willingness is how I meet new and different people.
Study abroad is a privilege. There are many people inside and outside the U.S. that don't have the means to travel longterm or are unable to get a visa and work out the legal details. This is one more reason to take full advantage of the opportunities that come with study abroad.
Maybe I'm crazy, but I think the best kind of travel changes you. Sometimes you feel stretched thin, uncomfortable, surrounded by foreignness, but then there is more room for you to take in knowledge and become more understanding.