There is no doubt that Philadelphia is an exciting setting for your four or five years of college. Philly is bursting with culture, history and opportunities that other college students aren’t lucky enough to have. Although it’s mesmerizing to gaze at the Philly skyline, there is nothing quite like eating at a French cafe near the Eiffel Tower, walking along the beaches of Costa Rica, or gazing at the same historical sites where Aristotle and Plato once walked in Greece. Left and right, students are taking advantage of Drexel’s excellent study abroad program that features a diverse list of destinations, from Iceland to the Czech Republic. Step out of your comfort zone, pick up a map and travel to your heart’s content while you have the chance.
Drexel’s study abroad program has several features that make studying abroad easier for students. For example, DrexelNow announced May 14 that an international area studies student was recently awarded a Boren Scholarship to study abroad in Russia for the 2013-14 school year. The scholarship awards up to $20,000 to undergraduate students interested in studying and working in a foreign country. Other scholarships include the CIEE Global Access Initiative Scholarship, the Gilman Scholarship, the Sharif Rahman Scholarship and several others. The abundance of study abroad scholarships available at Drexel gives students the opportunity to travel to a country of their choice without dishing out obscene amounts of money in addition to high tuition. Additionally, Drexel also offers short-term trips that students can apply for if they have summer term off and are unable to leave Philly while class is in session.
Unfortunately, upperclassmen often lead other students to have misconceptions of other countries and their inhabitants. These fast-spreading stereotypes often influence students’ decisions to study abroad. For example, tensions have recently increased between the U.S. and Russia in lieu of the Boston Marathon bombings, which could deter students from choosing to study abroad in Russia. The Editorial Board believes that we shouldn’t use the actions of the few to judge the whole. General stereotypes can cause students to think wrongly about foreign countries, making them unaware that in opting out of traveling to a certain country, they could be missing out on a fun and unique experience. Students should take the time to research countries before allowing societal misconceptions to make decisions for them.
We’ve often heard that people who didn’t study abroad during college regret it. It’s one of those things that we should take advantage of before we’re tied down with full-time jobs, families and/or other adult commitments. It will probably be difficult to plan an economical trek around all of Europe if you have kids or to explain to your boss why you’re requesting three months off to soak in the culture of South America. There may not be another time in your life where you’re relatively unattached and could ditch your life for three or six months — let alone have people encourage it! Drexel trains us to think practically, and so naturally we consider what we have to gain professionally from studying abroad. In the U.S., almost all industries have gone international, and we all have something to learn from our educational or professional counterparts abroad.
Part of going to college is being exposed to the world in ways you never knew in your high school cocoon. Studying abroad is an opportunity to see everything from a different perspective and to taste the real world in its entirety instead of reading about it online or seeing snippets of it on television. Depending on where you choose to study, you’ll face different challenges. Even if there’s no language barrier to worry about, being thrown into unfamiliar waters and potentially living with a host family is something that will probably make you a little uncomfortable. That’s the point! Not only will you get to experience a new culture firsthand and potentially learn a new language, but you’ll also learn to adapt and appreciate other cultures and avoid the ethnocentrism that Americans are stereotypically known for feeling.
Even if you’ve traveled around the country, you’re kidding yourself if you think we can even begin to comprehend the variety of worldly cultures and lifestyles. At one point or another, most people refuse to expand their taste buds, and a friend replies, “How do you know you don’t like it if you’ve never tried it?” The same goes for the lives that we’ll be choosing in the next few years.
How do you know what you’re missing if you never try it? Don’t waste your youth planning and putting off traveling the world. Be proactive and spontaneous, pick a country, and just go. It’s that simple.