Monday, September 2, 2013

Loving Study Abroad


Today is Labor Day, yes, but it is also something much more special than that. Today, we sent my sister off to Ireland for her study abroad program! Since I completed mine a little over two years ago (whaaaaat?!) I have been pretty obsessed with getting the word out there and promoting foreign exchange and study abroad programs (by the way, the photos in this post are from my year abroad). I really think that going to a new country to live, learn, and enjoy a new culture is something from which we can all benefit. It is such an eye opening experience and shows you how much there is out there if you just look past your own backyard. The benefits are endless. Obviously, there is the fact of traveling to some place new and seeing all of the beautiful things that the rest of the world has to offer. Of course, there is the chance to hear a new language and participate in a different culture.



But then if you scratch below the surface, there is more. There is a chance to not only see other cultures in action, but to learn them. To learn that language and speak it every day. To eat the local food every day as if it was your daily college Ramen noodles. To make friends and spend time with those people every day as if they were your family. That is where the true magic lies. Pretty soon, you develop not only an appreciation for this new life that you have discovered, but you find a new appreciation for the one you put on the shelf for a while. You begin to realize why your culture is the way it is and why this different way of life works, too. It is an amazing feeling.

Jan 1, 2009_3

As a study abroad student, you immerse yourself. You learn all of the nooks and crannies of your town because you desire nothing more than to be a local. You go to every bar so you can choose your favorite. You get to know the people that work at the sandwich shop down the street. You open a bank account. You have a bus pass. You're not just visiting, you're building a life. And believe it or not, you're making connections that will last a lifetime. You still get to do all those great touristy things, too! Except you get to do them more than once, and you become an expert. Pretty soon, you're the one guiding the tourists!



What may be the coolest thing about it, though, is what you learn about the human race. The fact is that there will be a language barrier at firs, but you'll soon find that it doesn't matter. The humanity in people overrides it and you find yourself laughing with someone and you don't even know why. You have conversation half in broken English, half in broken French, but somehow, you communicate. You pull out every charade, every sound, every strategy you can think of to talk to someone. In the end, it pays off. You have a family, a group of friends, a best friend. Those are the things you never forget.



It's so much more than croissants and pizza. It's so much more than towers and bridges. It's so much more than mountains and beaches. It's experiences and relationships. It's learning about other people and learning about yourself. It's about taking advantage of every opportunity and living life to the fullest. It's about using your mind and your skills to their full potential. It's about becoming the biggest, best version of you.


I'm so proud of my little sister. I hope she has the best time over there and comes home with a suitcase full of memories and stories to share.

If you are interested in following along on her adventure, she has a blog too: USA to UCD. Check it out!

No comments:

Post a Comment