In honor of my birthday week (indulge me!) and getting to reunite with my study abroad besties this weekend in Nashville, I figured I’d throw it back to the good old days. And by ‘good old days’ I mean the time I spent a semester galavanting across Western Europe. I’ve also spent the last couple of weeks trying to sell my own study abroad course to Stevenson students, so I’m in the mood for all the idealistic notions of travel. It makes you better human being, and all that! So – my top three reasons why Study Abroad (and travel in general) is amazing.
First of all, my time in Denmark was utterly and completely made by my host family. They were kind and generous and truly took me in as a part of their family. I wouldn’t have loved it half as much without them. Danes don’t exhibit and overt kind of friendliness and tend to prefer deep relationships rather than surface level acquaintances. Getting to live with a host family allowed me to engage with Danish culture on a much deeper level!
And Danes aside, my American classmates and travel buddies were so wonderful. You tend to form intense bonds rather quickly when you’re immersed in a culture so different from your own. I really leaned into these new friends and learned so much about myself in the process. The year I studied abroad was so formative for me for a lot of reasons, but mostly because of those relationships.
As a brief background, I didn’t leave the US until I studied abroad at the age of 21, and before that it was pretty rare that I even left South Carolina. I was sheltered in ways I couldn’t even recognize. There’s one particular instance when I argued, until I was blue in the face, that America was, in fact, a place of equal opportunity and everyone was responsible for pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. My classmate, from Chicago, gently explained to me what inner city schools looked like in her hometown. How the children in these schools and neighborhoods didn’t have the same access to resources that I had in my suburban town. I learned the difference between equity and equality that day, and I’ve looked at the world through a different lens ever since.
There’s also something about biking past a 1000-year-old church each morning that makes you feel small in the place of things. I think most twenty-year-olds could use a dose of smallness, and I was no exception. Seeing how we are connected in the world, so briefly on the scale of time, made a large impact on my own sense of purpose.
I waffle back and forth between the five love languages, but it’s perhaps because beauty is my love language instead. The lines of buildings are like fresh air, the curve of marble giving me new eyes. Ancient structures that stand today, reminding us of where we came from. Landscapes so different than my own, tugging at a place in my heart that’s only settled in the countryside. If not for the people and the perspective, travel for the beauty. You won’t be disappointed.