Greetings from Italy! I’m studying abroad in Florence this semester, quickly coming to learn it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’m going to say right off the bat that if you are considering studying abroad during your time at Northwestern, please don’t hesitate. Do it! It’s an opportunity that will likely not come again and something so unique to this time of life. I truly believe that every college student should travel to another country at least once during their career.
Maybe it doesn’t mean studying abroad for a whole semester. Maybe it’s going on a mission trip or SSP for one week, or a summer study abroad for a couple of weeks. Tailor it to whatever makes the most sense concerning your academic load/schedule and extracurricular activities. There are plenty of valid factors that can prevent people from traveling outside the US. It’s simply not possible for everyone. However, if your only reason for not traveling abroad is fear or shallow excuses, I think you are letting the wrong things hold you back. There are always a million reasons not to travel, so if an opportunity presents itself, you should absolutely take advantage of it.
I have been blessed to be able to travel to six different countries in my life, and I always tell people that traveling outside of the States has, by far, produced some of my most life-changing lessons and experiences. There is a certain kind of discomfort that comes with visiting a new country, one that I have never been able to fully explain. When everything around you is so unfamiliar, and you are surrounded by a completely different culture, it really challenges you. Strangely, that discomfort produces adrenaline, which empowers you to do things you didn’t know you could. Being alone in a new place is very intimidating, but it naturally forces you to explore and try new things you otherwise wouldn’t have. Most importantly, it leads you into a deeper relationship with the Lord since church and fellow Christians are harder to find.
Experiencing different cultures, climates and people groups is essential in aiding us toward growth and maturity. It is important for us to be around people and places different from us. When we leave behind the things we are used to and comfortable with, our eyes are opened to a world so much bigger than the bubble we live in. Before leaving for Italy, I talked with many people about studying abroad and what it’s like to be outside of America. Almost every college graduate I spoke with said that not studying abroad was one of their biggest regrets about college.
College is such a formative time in life. I know that I have grown more throughout my college years than I have at any other time. Because of the college atmosphere and our formative stage of life, we are discerning where God is calling us, learning about the person He made us to be. That’s why I believe it is important to step outside of our own culture and comfort zones to see what the rest of the world has to offer. Yes, we live in a great country, but we can’t let that take away from what is outside of it.
Whether it’s a four day or four-month trip, I strongly believe that college is the best time to explore somewhere outside of America. Do something that scares you. Book the flight. Join the mission trip. Don’t be so quick to assume that travel isn’t for you. Leaving what you’re used to will leave you amazed at the things God will teach you.