Studying (And Traveling) Abroad: Learning About Europe, And Myself

Cheap airline flights. Long train rides. Overnight bus rides. Random layovers. Inconvenient arrival times. Why is it that abroad students are so willing to bend over backwards to make such travel arrangements?

Well, namely to stretch the dollar – or, in my case, the Danish krone. The cheapest flights are also the ones that charge you for a carry-on and to drink water on board. They’re the ones your parents would never think of flying, but are the ones we rely on to get from city A to city B. Not many people would want to take an 11-hour bus ride overnight to Munich if there is an option to fly, but when you’re a college student, you do.

The other reason we do this is because we don’t know when else we will be able to. When students look past graduation, there are a lot of question marks. Where will I live? Where do I work? Am I surrounded by friends from college? How often will I see my family? All of this uncertainty makes us fairly certain about one fact: Being abroad is a time to travel. We will be in Europe, Africa, South America, Asia or Australia for a fixed number of days, and we will end up filling this time with memories of new cultures and new experiences.

Before I left America for Denmark, I blindly signed up for a trip to hike and rock climb in southern Sweden. I had never been to Sweden before, and I thought that if there was a time to go, it was now. And as the trip came closer and closer, I began to wonder why I spent so much money going to a random destination when I saw pictures of my friends going to places like London, Barcelona or Paris.

But, with the trip already paid for, I figured I shouldn’t be going into it with a negative attitude. And, being from California, I am open about the fact that I have high expectations when it comes to hiking. I miss the redwoods being next to the ocean, and I miss the fact that there were trails 10 minutes from my high school.

But when I got to Sweden, I could safely say these were some of the prettiest views I’ve ever seen on a hike.

22049891_10155618400596702_6026568562629572994_nAlongside three of my favorite Villanovans, I was able to explore a part of the world I never envisioned seeing. I saw beautiful pale pink cliffs against a dramatic blue coast. I saw pebble-lined beaches with the clearest water. I saw deep green hills studded with Swedish sheep.

If you asked me a year ago, I would never have known I would spend a weekend in Kullaberg National Park, Sweden. I would never have envisioned myself rappelling down the side of a cliff. And, no matter how much I miss Villanova or California, I know this is the time to explore more. To explore new cities and countrysides, yes, but also for exploration of my own growth and for the development of new friendships. Planning trips with new friends has given me an appreciation for exploration and excitement, one that I hadn’t necessarily had before embarking on this journey in Denmark.

22089216_10155618400206702_6254975837997917276_nAs I write this on a train from Hamburg, Germany, to Amsterdam, Netherlands, it is not lost on me how fortunate we “abroad kids” are. Many college students don’t have the resources to have such eye-opening experiences. That is why it is so important that we appreciate travel for what it teaches us, as opposed to looking at our travels as a list of accomplishments.

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The ability to travel is surely a blessing. It allows us, as students, to have a more developed sense of self and place in our communities. It allows us to see history, society and politics from different perspectives, contributing to our overarching human education.

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