...of studying abroad? It may seem like a question with obvious answers, but what really is the point of studying, and even living, abroad ? Wouldn't it be easier to make a quick tour around a few countries, and retreat back to the comfort of your home after a week or two? More often than not, living abroad entails a moderate amount of discomfort and homesickness, so there must be significant reasons why students continue to put themselves through these ordeals. After my time spent in France, these are the answers I've come up with:
|How I looked in front of anything Hungarian.|
You gain a new appreciation for home. I once read that the best part of traveling is the moment when you set foot back in your home territory, because you rediscover the comfort of the known. Sure, every student looks forward to the moment when they step off the plane into America and they can buy a giant mocha-java-latte-ya ya—let's just say Starbucks coffee—and can greet their fellow countrymen left and right. But the beautiful part of studying abroad is that you experience this in foreign cities, when coming back to your home base after travels abroad. I recently was in Budapest, Hungary, with fellow Ohioan Zoe, and after five days spent attempting to decipher the enigma that is the Hungarian language, we were ecstatic to return to France where we could actually understand what kind of sandwich we were buying before choosing it. Sure, France isn't our real home, but we feel a sense of belonging.
|At least they're honest about not working.|
You learn that your way of doing things is not the only, or the best way. Now I know that us Americans love to express our pride in everything from sea to shining sea, but oftentimes that's because we haven't experienced life beyond our own waters. These don't have to be earth-shattering discoveries ; for example many Americans grumble about the French closing shops and restaurants on Sundays, since in our American universe everything is available, all the time. Come to France, and if it's after noon on a Sunday you make do with what you have in the fridge, since shops are already closed and the workers are home with their families. Sure, there are pros and cons to both lifestyles, but that doesn't mean one is better than the other. They're just différent.
|Maybe that special dish is easier to reproduce than you thought..|
You become independent. Well partly at least, since most students are only able to go abroad thanks to the bounty of their parents (thanks again Mom and Dad!). When students face the reality of living on a different continent than their parents, it can be a discomforting thought. What happens if you get lost or sick, or are desperately craving Mom's famous meatloaf? You survive, and gain a new appreciation of your mom's culinary skills. Whatever the situation, you learn that you are capable of facing it on your own, and you'll learn to embrace the autonomy of adulthood. After living abroad, being independent in your own country will be a piece of cake.