Imagine that you live in an absolutely amazing house. I’m talking a mansion with a movie theater, bowling alley, and we’ll even throw in a hypothetical personal chef, just for good measure. This house has everything you want and need, and you could live a perfectly comfortable life if you never left. But just because you could stay in your house for your entire life, you’re not going to, are you? Of course not. You have to get out of the house at least every now and then; you have a life, you have friends, you have bigger aspirations than to sit at home forever. This is how I feel about traveling. I love my hometown in Ohio, and I love Rochester, where I live now. They’ve been really good to me, and I could live my entire life without ever leaving, but I’m not going to. I have a life to live, places to see, lessons to learn, and people to meet. Life is so much bigger than my little corner of the world that I know and love, just like it is so much bigger than my house, no matter how amazing that house may be. It’s the same idea.
That metaphor has always made sense to me, but in case it seemed a little off the mark to you, here’s my very literal explanation. It is extremely easy to spend your entire life in your own little corner of the world; you go to school, you go to work, you go grocery shopping, and you go home. It’s a comfortable life, but it’s not a rich life, in my opinion. The world is so big and magnificent and beautiful that it doesn’t make much sense to not go see at least some of it. Your life and your view of the world will become so much richer once you see new places, meet new people, and learn about how other cultures do this thing called life.
If you never go experience it for yourself, your only exposure to the rest of the world will be the internet, social media, and what you hear on the news,and this is a problem.You see, the news is going to tell you that the world is ridden with violence and war, hunger and sadness, pickpockets and swindlers. It’s going to sell you a bunch of people sitting behind a desk, reading off a teleprompter, telling you that the world is a scary place, because that’s what brings in the money. Don’t get me wrong – all of those things are very real and we as a global society need to address them – but they are not the whole story. They certainly aren’t what I experienced.
What I experienced was the love and acceptance of a Moroccan family who invited a stranger into their home for mint tea and a game of soccer with their children. It was the friendship I felt among students in Paris who invited a stranger to play football with them on Champ de Mars, because he was sitting there all alone. It was the laughter I shared with a group of complete strangers at the only bar in all of Höfn, Iceland. It was the affirmation that while we all have different traditions, religions, and circumstances, we are still the same at our core. We all seek happiness, love, and belonging. We all seek to be better tomorrow than we are today, and we all seek to figure out why on Earth we are on Earth.
The news never told me any of this.
That’s the long answer. The short answer is that going abroad is possibly the most enriching thing you will do in this life. It will open your eyes to things you never imagined, and it will take you places you can’t find on a map. The study abroad office here at RIT makes it so easy to find a program that is right for you that I don’t see any excuse not to do it. I spent the same amount to study in Italy that I would have spent to study here in Rochester, so the price shouldn’t hold you back, and if you don’t go abroad for school, just go abroad for yourself. Sometimes the only justification you need to travel somewhere is that it is there.