A college student exists in an odd in-between stage in life. You’re no longer a child living at home, but most are still bound to our parents since we haven’t developed enough income or stability to be totally independent — like having a decent income, owning property, having a family, etc.
College students are expected to do well in school, participate in extracurriculars, hold leadership positions, get a good internship, and stay out of trouble. Most of the tasks college students take on are assigned to them, whether it be by a parent, boss, professor or advisor. It seems the last thing a college student has is any validity on their entitlement to decision-making.
Although, there is one luxury we are notoriously encouraged to take advantage of at this weird in-between stage: travel in college.
For some reason, the one “out” college students get from this monotonous school and work routine is gaining the life experience of exploring another country or countries. By traveling to another part of the world, you gain independence, adventure, endless anecdotes, and a new love for life. After 16+ years of the school, work, home routine, rarely interrupted by a family vacation, a study or internship abroad experience shows students a different way to live; a way of life that since only existed in movies or imagination.
Your early 20s is the stage in your life that you likely don’t have too many obligations holding you back as you may as an adult, but you have the sense and responsibility to take care of yourself in a foreign culture that children couldn’t handle without parental supervision. Everyone says travel while you’re young, travel while you’re in school. When else in your life are you ever going to be encouraged to just get up and leave your life for half a year? When else are you going to be able to take weekend trips to Morocco or Paris or Greece? It’s the age when you may be able to spend your last two dimes on plane tickets because it’s life experience that you may never have again.
Being well-traveled can only credit your personality and make you a more culturally tolerant and considerate person. Travel can open your eyes to unknown societies and help you to see the millions of paths your life could take you. Experiencing other cultures and other societal ways of life pull you away from the idea that American infatuation with money and success is the only route to adulthood happiness. Adults encourage students to study abroad to gain experience and to open their eyes to life outside of the states and to take advantage of the adventure that comes with new places.
Go to Vatican City to listen to the Pope speak and learn about worship at its most holy origin. Go to Spain and see how siestas and a minimalist economy shapes happiness. Go to Italy and learn about the true appreciation of finely crafted food. Go to France and discover the history of some of the most beautiful pieces of art in the world. Go to Iceland, and hike the mountains and breathe air so fresh it makes your heart feel lighter. Experience the world and fall in love with life. Realize that your life is what you make of it and that opportunity is truly endless in your early 20s. So travel in college, because it may cost you your last two dimes but travel is the only thing you can spend money on that makes you richer.
This post was contributed by Annie Symons, who is spending her spring semester studying abroad with AIFS in Granada, Spain.