Appreciate that all countries on this earth have beauty within.
By Beatrice Pollard, University of Georgia.
I was 17 years old when I first traveled out of the country and it was the most riveting, thrilling experience I could have ever anticipated. Not only was I able to practice my amateur French phrases, but I was able to see firsthand the cultural differences that exist between the land of the free- and liberal-leaning Europe. To date, I have traveled to Holland, Germany, Belgium and France — and I have loved every moment. It’s not the security of knowing that has kept me coming back, it’s the knowledge that even after all those trips, there is more to see, hear and feel. I have felt liberated as I allowed myself to take in the differences, accept them and integrate some into my own personal life. And it is for this reason among many others that studying abroad, if given the chance, will change your life and introduce to you an irrevocable new perception.
If you haven’t been to Belgium and had the earth’s most delicious fries with mayonnaise — (pronounced “may-yo-naze”), then you haven’t lived! There’s nothing more chic than coming back from an excursion overseas and flaunting your newly acquired culture by demanding mayonnaise with your fries or fresh baguettes over Kroger’s $1 white. But traveling isn’t only about accepting clichés norms from people’s MYTHS about overseas countries; it’s about opening your eyes to a new horizon and stepping out of your comfort zone. In order to travel you must accept that this land called America isn’t the only land out there. That there are other ones and some may even be better than the one you were taught to love. But this acceptance won’t be hard as one might expect–it will be enlightening. After the travel glow wears off and you settle back into daily life in the U.S. of A, you will begin to appreciate that all countries on this Earth have beauty within, you just have to find it. And what’s more you might find yourself itching to know more, to accept more and try more. Whether it’s traveling to Germany, eating fresh sausages and drinking beer at Oktoberfest, picnicking in south France and appreciating their love for good food while snacking on cheese and fresh wine, or even traveling to Amsterdam and being shocked by how progressive and unchained from iniquity they are, you won’t ever regret the new experiences you’ve gained. As Bob Edwards once said, “A little learning is a dangerous thing, but a lot of ignorance is just as bad.” Ignorance often comes from uncertainty which is hard to surpass when your cultural knowledge is limited to American Literature classes and the struggle that schools term A.P. World History. I know this to be true because little can replicate the profound beauty in art you can view in person at the Louvre, the exhilaration felt while sailing across the Rhine, or the honorable appreciation felt while visiting Holocaust museums and concentration camps filled with memories tightly preserved by the authenticity of the Germans themselves.
Life is about personal development and growth often comes when you are pushing yourself. So go on a geographic excursion and experience the Amazon Rainforest firsthand, or travel to Indian mosques and practice religion and traditional culture. At the University of Georgia, you can stretch your horizons even farther by visiting Stellenbosch, South Africa, a study abroad trip that has past participants raving of the intrinsic value they received that will reach far beyond those few short months. Here they work with kids who have never seen books, worked on computers or able to even imagine the innovative technology experienced in the United States. Over the extent of the program you have the opportunity to work with a child creating recreational activities to preserve creativity, or promote utility by teaching village residents how to use a computer. All activities of which may seem trivial to those unwilling to experience with an open mind. But it is in these kinds of experiences, that while learning, you can also teach others. And in the end you both grow through sacrificing yourself in service and outreach. So if you’re ever given the opportunity, take a chance, study abroad and live anew.
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