Studying abroad is huuuuuuuuuge in college, especially at Tufts. It seems that about half of my friends are going to be gone this upcoming semester, traveling around and experiencing new cultures, and the other half of my friends will be gone in the spring, also studying abroad. I, for one, have made no plans to pack up my bags and leave Tufts for a semester, for a few reasons.
I was born to a foreign parent, so I’ve lucky enough to spend ample amounts of time abroad, especially in Germany. Because of this, I haven’t felt a strong desire to study abroad during college, though I completely understand the appeal and the decision to do so. Studying abroad is said to be a fantastic way to expose yourself to a whole new lifestyle, and push past challenges that will help you grow as a person. Nothing says stepping outside of your comfort zone quite like dropping smack-dab-in-the-middle of a foreign country!
That being said, for a long time I always took the idea of “study abroad” with a grain of salt. Maybe it’s because I’m cynical, but sometimes I can’t shake this nagging feeling that “studying” abroad should be changed to “partying” abroad, and a “deep appreciation for [insert country]’s language and culture” should be read as “using-limited-knowledge-of-a-culture-and-also-google-translate-to-craft-social-media-posts-that-brag-about-your-trip.”
I never wanted to be that person who goes abroad during college and returns absolutely insufferable, making sure everyone knows just where they went and how much they loved it and how they are practically a real native of [insert country] because they spent four months there. No, I never planned on going abroad, because I never wanted to be that “obnoxious American”—the kid who use their “study abroad” as a four-month vacation to take meaningless classes and party every single weekend, yelling in loud, nasally English and having no respect for the culture that is hosting them. Obviously this is not what most American students who go abroad do, but for some reason my outlook was biased.
But now I am abroad. Just for two months, not four, and doing an internship instead of classes, but still. I’m abroad. And I get it now.
Yes, studying abroad involved a lot more than just taking classes in another country. Sure, the classes may be a bit easier than those at Tufts, and yes, being abroad can involve going out. But now I’m realizing that there is so much more you can learn from experiencing life than just sitting in a classroom, and studying abroad helps you do just that. The “insufferable bragging” that I thought was so irritating from returned study-abroaders is actually a true, genuine joy for the experiences those people had. I know I’m going to go back home and rave about my summer in Berlin, and rightfully so—because it was (is) an amazing experience that has helped me re-center and challenge myself. I’ll never pretend I’m a local and I’ll never act like I know everything about this city, but I will take the things I’ve learned about life and bring them back to the United States, ready to share them with anyone who will listen. That is what studying abroad is about-- experiences and challenges to help you grow as a person. I'm happy my cynical outlook has been replaced by something a little more understanding!