When I was a senior in high school, I had a great life. I was the captain of the crew team, had just earned my Eagle Scout award, and was accepted into one of my top college choices for the following fall. However, even with all of these wonderful things, there was still something missing. A small part of me was unsatisfied with the world around me. I began to notice how redundant each day felt and started to crave an adventure which had yet to be experienced. A hunger started to manifest inside me which ached to wake up in a new city each week, ready to explore, learn, and grow. I began to seek opportunities that could be capitalized upon to fix this missing piece. During my freshman year of college, I discovered the option of studying abroad. That was when everything changed.
After hearing of this exciting opportunity to live halfway across the world and immerse myself in a new culture, I knew it was fate. There were semester and full-year options available. For a multitude of different reasons, I chose to study abroad in Prague for the entire year. For starters, the Czech Republic is a small country in a centrally located area of Europe, making it the perfect destination to depart from. I liked the flexibility that came along with living in this country; it was easily accessible and made traveling very easy. Another huge advantage to this city is that it is extremely cost effective. One USD is the equivalent to about 5 Koruna. The dollar in this country goes farther than it would on the Euro.
Secondly, I wanted to see landmarks that I have read about in history books: the Colosseum where the Roman gladiators fought, the Sahara desert where the earth shows us just how powerful it can be. My goal was to also cross off things on my bucket list, such as eating a Belgium waffle, paragliding in Switzerland, biking the streets of Amsterdam, hiking the Cliffs of Moher and eating crepes in Paris. I knew I could not pursue my dreams if I was only in Europe for a semester. Honestly, the best time to travel and see the world is when you are young. Most countries offer “student discounts” to 18 to 25-year-olds. You can save a considerable amount of money on famous landmarks, such as the Vatican, Roman Forums, the Louvre, etc. I chose the year option so I would have no regrets. I could live life to the fullest without having to worry about the deadline of when I would be returning home. Since I was heading to Europe anyway, I may as well stay for as long as possible.
|Me at the Vatican|
There are many advantages to studying abroad for a year. Within that short time period, I grew exponentially as a person. I learned how to be independent, navigate around a foreign city, travel within a budget, how to cook, and the list goes on. The personal growth that one experiences is truly phenomenal. I came home a completely different person in the best way. Being in Europe for a year enabled me to fully immerse myself into the local culture. I learned some elementary Czech, was able to navigate around the city without a map like a true local, ate native dishes in each country I went to, and asked as many questions as I could. The best part of studying abroad is the opportunity to learn from others. Secondly, I went for the competitive edge that it will give me. To a future employer, this experience is something that will stand out. It shows that I am able to adapt, embrace change, and appreciate and learn from those who are different from me. Lastly, I went to see the world. In that year, I visited 11 different countries, 35 cities, and traveled to Africa. Throughout the year I made lifelong friends, went out of my comfort zone, and made memories to last me a lifetime. The best time to travel is when you're young, so embrace the opportunity and take advantage of it within your time in college. It may just change your life.
Matthew Baldini is a CEA Alumni Ambassador who studied abroad in Prague, Czech Republic, in 2019. He is currently a student at Montclair State University.
Matthew Baldini is the Fall 2018, Spring 2019 Alumni Ambassador in Prague, Czech Republic, and is currently studying at Montclair State University.