England. That is the short answer. Better yet, anywhere that has invaded your dreams. Have you ever imagined a landscape, or a structure, and some other life flourished into your senses? And then, once you are grabbed out of it, an urge to pick up and go overcoming you?
“What about money? What about my friends and family? What about my relationship?”
All valid questions. Traveling seems like the most impossible thing when books, tuition, daily expenses, and a reasonably up-to-date wardrobe is asphyxiating your cash-flow. If mom and dad are willing, the most easy sell is study-abroad. Because, let’s face it, the glamour of backpacking and hostels has a reasonable shade of danger and risk to it, especially if you are young and inexperienced.
So, how is Study-Abroad an option? Well, first of all, consider scholarships (plan ahead on that one), look to family members and close friends to donate to your cause of academic & soul enrichment, and maybe, to show some vigor and responsibility, GET A PART-TIME JOB! I know, I know. You’re busy. You’re overloaded and overwhelmed. That’s where thinking ahead is the most vital aspect of planning a trip abroad. If you know you want to travel the world, start putting some dough in that piggy bank, cut down on some of the fluffy parts of your budget, and ask your International Programs advisor what your options are! Most likely there will be a scholarship opportunity or financial aid that could cover a part of the cost. Often, your scholarships for tuition and aid are applicable to a program sponsored through your school.
Still not convinced?
Here’s a kicker: You earn academic credit towards your degree. Unless there are some complications with a program you choose outside of your school’s realm, you are most likely going to have transferrable credit earned. That can mean two things: 1) You can graduate EARLIER, or 2) Your Study-Abroad institution could measure out to be cheaper cost-per-credit than your full-time institution. How do I know this? I experienced it for myself. Not only did I spend half the cost on Study-Abroad for the SAME amount of credits, but I did it in a month over the summer! It saved me money my senior year, and I had the experience of a lifetime (for a multitude of reasons you will soon discover!).
“But, even if I can gather the cost, what about leaving my friends and family for “X” amount of time?”
Okay. This one is hard. Every person is different. I’ll explain from my perspective and experience where you can find some much-needed comfort in this separation anxiety and culture shock… Let’s be real: If summer camp wasn’t your thing, leaving home in the morning made you want to vomit your insides, or you just don’t like living with others, strangers in particular, then you are in a bath of uncertainty. I’m one of those people. I’m not “anti-social,” but just socially awkward. I’m an observer, and I like to be able to have space. I’m always thinking, reflecting, and getting lost in other mindscapes. I don’t even know when someone is speaking to me half the time. And the chain of events, the bouncing back and forth about whether or not I should sign up, and the final signature where my hand was vibrating in anxiety, were all the universe pushing me towards a better version of myself. It sounds corny, but it is beyond anyone’s comprehension until experienced!
So, why am I selling this? Well, study-abroad changed my life for the better. I was able to remove myself from what was familiar, a drastic change I abhorred until the second day in England, and grow roots in another place completely foreign to me. I had researched, fantasized, and glorified England, and I was not disappointed! I believe whole-heartedly that it is an experience that every person, student or otherwise, should find the means to explore. The path to achieving the financial and emotional foundation isn’t necessarily a breeze, and at times, the new purse, new car, or take-out over home-cooked food, may seem more immediately gratifying. There is an immeasurable mass of wisdom, thrill and self-discovery, that goes along with traveling. Plus, you make friends, forge bonds, and develop true connections with people socially and professionally. The networking aspect alone is enough to convince a lover of all things practical.
Before I set you free to go look into programs and destinations that appeal to you, let me cover one last obstacle. I did not forget about the significant other you may be worried about leaving. And whether that relationship is longterm, solid, and heading to the altar, or brand new, exciting, and far from the place of feasible separation, I understand all too well. I believed that my relationship would withstand such distance because the relationship had exceeded three years. We had our arguments, fears, and eventual collapse over the idea after I followed through with my trip to England. And I am not advising you to test unsteady ground, but if you are being drawn away from home, a nonpermanent transition, you should pursue that dream! Don’t let the worry of losing someone prevent you from making beneficial choices. That does not just apply to travel, but to everything! Be brave, and hold your head up high if you receive the text, from thousands of miles away, that the relationship has ended. You may even find yourself better and stronger in your relationship than when you departed. You get to see what someone will do to love you, make you happy, and see you thrive in a far-off place. Because then, and only then, can you return to that place together, with all of your knowledge, to explore the things you missed, having traded in your academic spectacles for romantic frames.