I think its fairly common these days, someone you know updates their Facebook profile picture to reflect their newfound freedom in a foreign country. I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else, as I don’t think I was in Greece for more than two days before I updated mine. While I might be a bit facetious here, I really do believe in the ability for a study abroad to change one’s outlook on life.
One of the reasons I decided to leave my old institution was in large part, due to the fact, that I could not complete my academic major on time and study abroad. Let’s be clear, my time studying abroad in Greece was one of the greatest experiences of my life and cemented how much I care about Hobart and William Smith Colleges .
There’s an old cliché that studying abroad changes your perspective on life. While, I don’t think that’s totally true, I do know the summer I spent in Greece was the longest continual period outside of the United States. Being outside the United States and its culture provides a new prospective, one where when you’re on the other side of the world, you become attune to how the United States is perceived abroad, rather then how we as Americans perceive the outside world.
Yes, in large part, it was because I spent the summer gallivanting around an amazing southern European country with excellent cuisine and a night life that puts Geneva to shame. However, it wasn’t the country (Greece) or the city (Athens) that made my abroad experience memorable, it was my collages, the other Hobart & William Smith students on the trip, made the experience out to be remarkable.
One of my biggest complaints about small schools is they allow us to be creatures of habit. What I mean by this is the colleges small size allows us to seek out small groups of people who share our common interests with whether that be members of the same fraternal or sorority group, ethnic organization, or sports team and remain closest with these individuals for our four years on campus. In my opinion, a study abroad programs intrinsic value lies in the fact that it breaks up traditional social groups, and creates a diverse group of people from different backgrounds who are all on one trip together.
The friendships I’ve developed with the six people or so people I went abroad with is one of my favorite memories from my years at Hobart. Yet, I’ve come to realize that the group of six friends I meet on my study abroad trip would have never interacted with one another here on the Hobart and William Smith campus if we had not studied abroad together. We all hailed from different geographic regions and had vastly different majors and social scenes, but our experience abroad together is what binds us together.
I began this article by saying that if you have the means, you should make a serious attempt at studying abroad. I maintain that whatever destination you choose, will work just fine, but the real value in studying abroad is both the new perspectives you gain from the experience and the friendships you would not have made if you did not go challenge yourself to try the abroad experience.