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The Real Reason to Study Abroad

So. Here we are. 2 days before departure, and I can't even begin to explain what has happened in these past four months. It would be a flat out lie to say I am the same person who landed here four months ago. So, now, I would like to take the time and attempt to explain to you the Kenny who is now leaving Barcelona, and why he's changed.
 
1) Independence. Not the kind of independence that you get from going away to college. I'm talking next level stuff here. Never before had I thought that at the age of 20, I would be booking my own flights, navigating through foreign and strange cities, cooking my own meals, balancing my own finances, and all the while, by some miracle, keeping up my health. It's a real strange feeling, but the Kenny getting on this plane back to New York doesn't need his parents to survive (finances aside). And when you truly hit that point, when you know that you can make it as a citizen of the world, its a fascinating feeling. And the only thing I can attribute this to is the whole study abroad experience.
 
2) Self Reflection. This one's a bit tricky. But to ignore it would be a mistake. Since my time here I have learned an infinite amount of knowledge about who I am and who I want to be. Exposing myself to different situations, different people, and above all, a different environment, has given me the opportunity to step back, look at myself objectively, and assess my life. For starters, I think I have finally come to a conclusion about my career choice. For more starters, I found a piece of potential in me that I never new existed. And for even more starters, I've realized more or less why I am the way I am and how to change the things I think need changing. Once again, this is a bit hard to explain because I don't wish to disclose the details of it all, but one thing is clear: the reason this is all happening is because of this study abroad experience.
 
3) Respect for my parents. Yeah. I know. Kind of stole that one from the big 10. But I've never before respected the energy both my parents have put into my life and theirs. You don't truly understand the sacrifices they make to take care of you until you realize how hard it is to simply take care of yourself. More over, you don't understand the pressures of being completely independent until you become independent yourself. Way sooner than I think, I am going to be moving out, getting a job, providing for myself, and hopefully others. It's a scary feeling, and studying abroad puts this feeling more into perspective than ever. But it's not just scary. It's exciting. And if our parents can do it, and can do it well, than so can we. So can I. And like most things that have been occurring in my life, I'm not so sure this respect would have cultivated if I hadn't studied abroad.
 
This seems like an odd way to sum up a study abroad experience, but I want you to think about it like this. The classes we take and the grades we get will soon be a memory. The people we meet and the places we go, will to, unfortunately, become a memory. But the way we transformed, the way we grew, that is going to lay the foundation for the rest of our lives. This is why, above all the great friends I have made, the amazing nights I have spent, and the crazy countries I have been to, I regard the transformation the most valuable thing I am taking away. The Kenny who is about to get on the plane and leave this beautiful city behind isn't sad. No. He is excited. There is a world to look forward to and a life to live, and I'm not sure I would have ever seen it this way if I had never decided to study abroad. 
 
 
Kenneth Wallach
MoJo Barcelona, Spring '12

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