I had a great time in college. If you ask me, I went to the best college in the entire world. The University of Tennessee is no Harvard academically – not that we slack in that area – but it is a special, special place that got into my blood and will stay there for the rest of my life. It’s not always easy, being a Vol, but I would rather be a Vol than anything else.
While I enjoyed my time in college to the absolute fullest, I do wish I would have studied abroad. There were countless opportunities in both Europe and South America. I had journalism friends who did semesters in the U.K., Ireland, and Spain. One professor did his very best to convince me to spend the summer in Beirut, helping set up broadcast network. But me? Beirut? Nah.
Working in student educational travel, I see the benefits of studying abroad on a daily basis. Being able to see and experience cultures outside of our own teaches us things we can’t learn in classrooms or in our small towns. It teaches us acceptance. It also teaches us to dream – to dream bigger than the county lines we grew up within. That is the thing we hear the most often from our students – how they realized they could do absolutely anything they set their mind to while they stood at the top of the Eiffel Tower or ziplined through a Costa Rican rainforest.
In my adult life – I use the word “adult” lightly – I have been to several parts of the United States, usually on business and without time to explore. Boston is a great town – from what I saw walking from my hotel to the conference to dinner and back again. In December, I’m heading to New York City for the first time and in April, I will make my first appearance on European soil to visit London and Paris. I’m already plotting how and when I can make my way to Prague and Germany later next year.
I didn’t study abroad in college for no other reason than the fact that, at the time, I was afraid. I had never been on a plane at that point – and now swear its the only way to travel – and the idea of being overseas, so far away from my family, overwhelmed me. While I’m not big on having regrets, I do wish I would have studied abroad in college – who knows what sort of opportunities would have been opened to me?
Ultimately, I followed the path I was meant to follow. Come spring, I may fall so in love with the U.K. or France that I simply have to live there. I have learned to never rule anything out – you never know what is around the next bend, and fate has a funny way of putting you in the right place at the right time. The love of my life or the job of my dreams could be in Europe, right now.
Or South America. Australia. Asia. Africa. I really hope Antarctica isn’t in the cards, though. I don’t do well with the cold.
While I didn’t study abroad in college, I have every intention of jet setting as much as possible in my adult life. I have learned that experiences are more valuable than, say, saving for a new DSLR camera that I have owned for two years and have yet to figure out how to use. Recent research even backs experience over saving money.
Most of my readers are out of college, but if you aren’t, study abroad. Spend a semester in Spain or six weeks in Tokyo. Do it. Take the chance. If you aren’t still in college, travel. Go everywhere and everywhere. See the world. Experience it.
As Tolkein says, “Not all those who wander are lost.”