The time to choose classes is upon us, and I cannot help but wonder what I want to do with my remaining years at the University of South Dakota.
One prominent thought stands out in my jumbled mind: my desire to study abroad.
The first time I traveled outside the United States, I became hooked on the idealistic dream of travelling to every country. Since then, I have come to realize that although the places I have visited are memorable, it’s the people who leave a lasting impact.
I recently talked to Eric Leise, assistant director for the Center of Academic and Global Engagement. I asked him about how many USD students study abroad per year.
“About 225 right now. It kind of fluctuates between 200 and 225,” he said.
Those are high numbers, but I want to encourage more people to experience an adventure of a lifetime.
My most recent adventure was over spring break when I went to Puerto Rico. One evening was spent kayaking to the Lagunas Grande bioluminescent bay with a large group of people, about two-thirds of them Chinese foreign exchange students.
As we kayaked through the canal, I began to converse with one of the Chinese students. He told me how great his experience has been at Pennsylvania State, the friends he has made, how his English has improved and how much confidence he has gained.
As it began to downpour and we struggled to steer clear of other kayaks and tree branches, we noticed the slightest stirring of the water produced tiny bursts of teal-blue light. Each swish of a paddle or droplet of rain lit up the water around us. This magical experience left us with an amazing and entertaining story to tell. We all were bonded through that wonderful event and we didn’t even realize it.
Admittedly, one has to be open-minded when they travel as well as informed.
For example, you can’t go sporting the peace sign in Ireland. You need to be aware that although some words remain the same, they do not necessarily have the same meaning, and some of your opinions are sometimes left better unsaid.
If you abide by the rules of the culture, your eyes will be opened to having an amazing experience with those around you. Stay with a host family, go to a school filled with strangers and, more importantly, go abroad. Your life will change.
The world is not centered around the United States of America, but rather each individual language, food, belief, culture, and person on this planet.
Worried about money? Here’s a tip I got from a friend: don’t. We will be paying back bills the rest of our lives, so why should that stop us from one of the most amazing opportunities we will carry with us forever?
As Eric Leise told me, “We’re here to make it happen for students.”
Stop by the Center for Academic and Global Engagement and they will start you on your own journey.