There is an unsaid but often expected part of studying abroad: Traveling.
Because flights in Europe are drastically cheaper compared to America, I was dead set on getting to at least one other country. So, after some planning, I went on “holiday,” as they call it, to Paris, France, and then Rome, Italy.
The experience was absolutely incredible. One day I was at the Eiffel Tower, the next at the Coliseum, the next at Vatican City! Everything radiated a new, foreign culture, interesting people, beautiful language, gorgeous architecture, delicious food. It’s an adventure I will always remember.
But, I believe there is something that needs to be said.
Some of the first questions I encountered were about where I was planning on traveling to. So much so that I was quite surprised. What about seeing the country I am living in?
Paris and Rome were incredible. But so were all of the places I’ve seen in Ireland!
I came here for a reason, because I am most interested in it and its culture. When I have free time or get the itch to explore, Ireland has never failed me in providing places to see and things to do. A lot of locations are surprisingly close and quite a few are even free! And because I’ve seen so much of my host country, I feel even more connected and engrossed in the culture.
Let’s be honest: Not everyone can travel every weekend. Maybe you’re working abroad while you’re here, or schoolwork is demanding, or it’s just too much money for your budget. It’s okay. And I think that’s something students abroad need to know. Do your research. Look for places around your city, find the cheapest transportation and plan out your adventures so you don’t end up behind in school. It is possible to have an amazing, rewarding time, full of new experiences, without traveling to a bunch of new countries. And with the right mindset, every day can be an adventure. Take a new route to school, try out a new coffee shop, eat something you’ve never heard of, talk to someone new. Even little things can be eye-opening.
Now, I’m not saying to not travel to other countries. I’m simply saying don’t get too stressed out or obsessed with it.
So, my advice is this: Take advantage of your time abroad, but don’t feel pressured into becoming a world traveler. If you can only afford one big trip, plan it out well and live it out to the fullest. And, most importantly, don’t neglect your home country. You went there for a reason. So see as much as you can of it.
Rachel Balon is the Fall 2014 CEA MOJO in Galway, Ireland. She is currently a senior at Keystone College.
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