It’s not often that many college students get opportunities to do something unique. Some have the privilege of being elected to student government, some are popular athletes, and others have the privilege of free education for their academic achievements. Yet for people like me, there’s no better way to make your mark than to participate in a study abroad program. This fall I will be leaving Chadron to spend a semester in Morocco, a country in North Africa, and just south of Spain.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been abroad. I spent an entire year of high school living in France and I enjoyed every bit of it, from meeting new friends and seeing the sights to learning the language. Actually getting to be in that country and live like any other youth changed my life. I left America an ethnocentric conservative; I returned broad-minded with a taste for peoples and culture outside of our football-crazed, near-monoculture society. It’s that certain vibe that beckons me to go abroad again, this time to a more exotic and charming land thanks in part to my friend and fellow CSC student Younes Chiadmi, of Morocco.
While I know I will benefit highly from a foreign trip once more, I feel that it is time that more Chadron students consider going abroad as well, especilly when they learn the benefits they can derive from it. One of the obvious benefits is academic. For those who want to move on to higher universities or work in special professions, having lived abroad will give a good impression of your language and communication skills, and your diligence to employers and higher education. After all with the world becoming more globalized, more people will consider leaving the comforts of America to work internationally.
A second benefit to going abroad is improving your mind. In this case, simply learning a new language can boost your brain power significantly. According to the London-based newspaper The Independent, “[P]eople who speak more than two languages over their lifespan may lower their risks of developing memory problems.” An obvious bonus, of course, is being able to use that new language to broaden your career prospects, especially if you work hard to learn languages like Chinese, Hindi, Arabic, or Spanish. I know some people think, “Well, everyone speaks English and if not, they should learn it.” Ah, the typical lazy excuse spoken by the American who’s never gone abroad.
A third benefit is learning about other ways of life. This has two effects: the first being that you learn to appreciate what you have in America and to no longer take it for granted; second, living abroad offers you a chance to reexamine and critique your own country and way of life. While in France I noticed that they weren’t as consumer-driven as we tend to be. In fact, what I saw upon my return to America was a population always wanting the latest Apple junk, wanting a nicer car, bigger house, smaller body, and incessantly whining about gas prices. It helped me realize the real priorities in life, and enjoy what I already have.
Finally, going abroad is great fun. Even for an introvert like me, meeting new faces and having long discussions from trivial to serious subjects is so much fun. And depending on the country you go to, you’ll find people to be livelier than here (especially in Latin American countries). There’s nothing more fun than a foreign party scene. Not only that, but traveling throughout the host country is also much easier and cheaper than it is to travel in America. Hop on the train in France, Morocco, or Peru and in no time you’ll be at the seashore or enjoying the beautiful city or countryside.
For all those who say they can’t wait to get out of western Nebraska, well here’s your chance to do one better than that. The Study Abroad office is in Crites Hall, and I can assure you, whether you take out a student loan, use scholarships, or just save up enough money, going abroad is totally worth it and you will never regret it.
So where will you go? Brazil, India, Chile, or maybe Ireland? That’s for you to decide.