That phrase “studying abroad” is actually one I hate to use, I gag at the sound of it inside my head (gagging right now, actually). Going abroad to study is obviously something to admire, something people hope for, and something people work for. But what I’ve seen, for a lot of people (NOT ALL, but a lot) is that it’s really nothing special. Yes, you move to a new country – likely Europe because most aren’t really wise enough to do beyond that – and you live in this foreign land and attend classes at this foreign school, which may sound like some “brave” stuff. It’s so funny to me how people throw that word around to study abroad students. I went to this nail salon in London and the lady doing my nails kept telling me how, “brave” I was to be living far from home and how “brave” I was to be so far away from my parents. I’m not brave, I never have been and probably never will be. I’m just lucky. Lucky that I had the money to buy plane tickets to the UK and Europe, lucky to have parents who supported my decision and backed my finances, LUCKY to even attend a college.
Let’s face it – the only people studying abroad are the ones who can afford it. Whether it’s your parents, a loan, a scholarship, etc. That money, time, and support are things so many people in this world don’t have and never will have. It upsets me when I see how mainstream studying abroad has become. I’m obviously happy for myself and those who were blessed with the opportunity to attend school in a different country, but I can’t help but feel for those who haven’t. A friendly reminder when you’re listing the names of cities and countries you visited on that “Study Abroad” Facebook albums of yours, think of those who aren’t as lucky. You’re lucky a college accepted you, you’re lucky you had a credit card on file to enter into that airline’s website, you’re lucky you had a job to save up for the funds, and you’re lucky that loan went through. Just remember that, because – and I hate to sound like a cliche, but – there are people in this world who aren’t even lucky enough to eat.
And one more thing, because my rant is not yet over and I’d like to draw everyone’s attention (specifically those who have NOT studied abroad) to one honest fact – it’s not what you think it is. It’s not what your Facebook friends crack it up to be, there’s far more crying, frustration, and emptiness to it than that. A common trend I found while abroad, specifically in the lovely city of Florence, was how similarly it was treated like home for most students. Let me explain – you go abroad, you’re honored and applauded for your “bravery,” you live with a friend from home (likely the same sorority as you because that’s just what you do), you hangout with your friends from home, you eat the same foods as you would at home (they sell Pringles and PopTarts in Europe too), and you hangout at bars that remind you of home (often with American names such as, “Red Garter” — if you lived in Florence then you just know). AND THAT’S IT. THAT’S ALL YOU DO. I mean maybe, again if you’re lucky, you take a trip to Munich for Oktoberfest, or you get on a 10 hour bus ride to some new country through a traveling service likely ran by Americans. But what you don’t do is dare to ever exit your comfort zone, you don’t get to know new people from new cultures, and you definitely don’t dare venture anywhere on your own. How can you truly experience a country without trying their food, talking to their people, and exploring new places? You can’t, you simply can’t. Maybe it’s fear for some people, foreign things and foreign places can sometimes be scary, but it may just as easily be ignorance. Not knowing that there’s an entire world out there filled with people, places, and foods that can teach you so much will 100% warrant a study abroad student who returns home with nothing more to show for his/her time abroad than a Facebook album full of photos…& A BUNCH OF LIES.