The Value of Studying Abroad

Seeing as I'm about to embark on some travels, I feel the need to reminisce.

'Home' has a strange meaning to me. I live in Colorado and I'm currently typing this post from Texas (where I have spent most of my years), but neither place feels like home. The word, for me, changed meaning entirely my Junior year of college when I decided that what I was doing in my studies wasn't quite right. 

It was a during a period of scrambling for direction that I made the undisputed best decision of my four years of undergraduate education: to study abroad (and travel extensively while doing so). There was no one experience during my time at TCU that stretched me so much mentally, culturally, socially, and photographically. If you've ever brought up the subject with me, you'll be very aware this is one of the few topics that I can (and will) talk about for hours. That said, international travel can be intimidating – especially if you’re by yourself. The core bit of advice I try to give to people curious about studying abroad and traveling is pretty simple: While exploring, find and listen to the voice in the back of your head (the one that fear usually hushes) and DO what it tells you.

Take that train to the city you can’t pronounce (and if you're in Europe, get a rail pass while you're at it). Travel somewhere alone. Push yourself to say hi to the person that’s riding across the aisle from you. Skip the hotel and stay in the hostels (the 12-bed shared room, of course). Have an idea of what you want to accomplish but be flexible – plan to not have plans. Grab a bite at that expensive café, even if you can only afford an appetizer. Talk to locals. Be courageous and embrace the excitement that comes with being uncomfortable and out of your element (on that note, try the wine). Smile, even when you’re constantly exhausted. Make photographs (of course). And above all, keep your eyes open and be grateful. It's not always easy, but I can’t express how rewarding my travels have been simply by keeping these things in mind.

It wasn't until after my study abroad experience that 'home' became more of a state of being than a location. A settledness within oneself and a confidence to explore, to experience, to learn, and simply to be. Regardless of where life takes you.

Seen while I was passing through Venice during my semester abroad in 2011

I’m fortunate enough to have a grandfather who is taking the extended family on a European vacation next week for his 85th birthday. I’ve been trying to contain my excitement for the past several months, but when Monday comes around, I hop on a plane to Venice for a 10-day stint adventuring on the Adriatic. Needless to say, I'm ready to explore.