If there was one word that could encompass every aspect of studying abroad, it would be “new.” New places, new people, new experiences – nothing is old or familiar. For many people (especially young and adventurous students), new things are almost addictive, and they can easily become the focus of our daily routines.
The importance of experiencing new things abroad is undeniable, but I feel problems may arise when people sacrifice commitment and stability for the constant pursuit of newness.
It’s very common for students abroad to continuously try new things – a different bakery every day, weekend trips to foreign countries, spending time with new people – but by spending all of their time in unfamiliar places or with new people, they lose the beauty and depth that comes with being committed and fully invested in something. When entirely focused on the next new person or place, it becomes impossible for these students to create significant relationships or truly know their host city during their short time abroad. Neil Strauss said that “without commitment, you cannot have depth in anything,” and in order to have depth in a study abroad experience, students need to commit themselves.
Ways to Get Involved
One way to be committed and try new things at the same time is by getting involved abroad. There are many different ways for international students to get involved in their cities. Universities offer events held by various clubs or organizations that students can participate in during their time abroad. Many cities have different NGOs or other organizations to volunteer with or intern for, and some of these are even connected to local universities.
During my time in Granada, I have been to numerous intercambios (social language exchanges with people of different mother languages) that have allowed me to meet other Spanish students involved in local organizations. I now attend an English club every week to meet and get to know other students!
The opportunities that arise from getting involved are endless, and they allow for the creation of deep connections. By opting to stay in your host city one weekend to explore, you allow yourself to know the city and understand its people more intimately. By joining a club, you open the door to having deeper friendships with locals while investing in one of your passions (or discovering a new one!). By volunteering with a local organization, you are able to meet people who share the same beliefs and also have a desire to do something powerful: make a difference.
No one wants to return from their time abroad with regrets, especially with regrets about not making significant relationships with their host city and its people. Through the commitment to getting involved and investing in local organizations and people, students can make the most out of their experience abroad and come home with deep-rooted relationships and memories that last beyond their time away.