When I was in college I remember overhearing a fellow student talk about her plans for spending her junior year studying abroad. She was going to go to France for a semester and planning to get a Eurail pass to travel on a train across the continent while there.
Sometime in my senior year, I also met a guy who had just returned from a semester in England. His friends kept teasing him for developing a British accent, but he laughed it off, saying he’d just had the time of his life.
Back then, I myself never considered studying abroad. It seemed out of the realm of possibility for me. I didn’t think my parents could afford to help pay for it, for one, and my on-campus job working in a day care barely was enough to live off of, let alone journey to another country for such an extensive period. Besides, I was pretty sure my Latino parents would be against me leaving the country without either of them to accompany me. So, that was that.
But here’s something else: Neither my adviser nor any of my professors ever encouraged me to consider international studies. None of them suggested it might be worth my while, or what a world of difference it could make to my life. In fact, I think if any of them had sent information to my parents about the value of studying abroad, my parents could have been persuaded.
Was it because I’m a person of color that the idea of studying abroad was never raised to me? I’ll never know. True, the only folks I remember doing the study abroad program were white, including the girl who went to France and the guy who developed the British accent.
But the truth is, even today, students of color don’t study abroad nearly as often as their Caucasian counterparts. And yet there’s a multitude of reasons why all students should be taking advantage of the opportunity.
Studying abroad opens your mind, teaches you about other cultures and languages, and helps you connect and touch the lives of those you meet along the way. It expands your horizons and, in this global age, it makes you more competitive in the workplace.
I recently sat down with Dr. Aaron Bruce, Chief Diversity Officer for San Diego State University. Bruce, who has traveled extensively, has made it his mission to convince students to take the plunge and head overseas.
I hope you’ll read his story in the Huffington Post, and share it with any college students in your life, as well as any kids who aren’t yet ready for college. Ingrain it in them now, so that they too can reap the rewards of studying abroad.
Oh and be sure to leave a comment there and share your thoughts. Did you study abroad? If so, what was it like for you and how did it make a difference to your life?