If You're Gonna Study Abroad, Study Way Abroad

If You're Gonna Study Abroad, Study Way Abroad


If you're going to do it then do it right.

I want to start this article by stressing that EVERYONE should do everything in their power to try and study abroad. No matter where you go it will be an exhilarating and rewarding experience. With that said, I want to make a case for taking classes that are not traditional for American college students. I'm talking about skipping on London or Paris or Madrid and going somewhere a little less first-world. Instead, take some classes in Southeast Asia like I have (I'm currently taking MMW14 in Bangkok). Jump off the beaten path and into cultures that are nothing like our own and explore a part of the globe that a company like National Geographic regularly visits. Why venture here? I've got four reasons: its cheap, its a doorway to religions and cultures misunderstood by Americans, it gives perspective, and it's a hell of an adventure.    

When I say things are cheap I mean dirt cheap. I'm currently writing this article from my hotel room in downtown Bangkok which is almost identical to a room that you stay in when visiting a decent casino in Vegas. Its fifteen dollars a night. Everyday I eat the most delicious pad thai, garlic fried chicken, and dumpling soup for about a buck fifty a meal. One night during a weekend trip to Cambodia me and my friends went out and I had three courses of Khmer BBQ, picked up three pitchers of beer and a round of shots from my group at several clubs, and then took a tuk-tuk taxi home; the whole night cost me seventeen dollars. I spent less than a hundred bucks on a long weekend of bar hopping and snorkeling on the paradise island of Koh Chang. The amount of bang for your buck you get in these countries is absolutely ridiculous. I'm having the time of my life, not skimping on anything, and I'm barely spending anything.

Moving away from the financial benefits, studying in Southeast Asia has introduced and better explained Buddhism and Hinduism to me. Not many people in America know anything about these two religions and I'm sure if I asked a bunch of random people on the street the general consensus would be that they are people who don't eat cows, are from India, and pray to a fat guy. These ignorant blanket statements don't give any credit to these sophisticated beliefs. Over the last few weeks I have visited holy places like Angkor Wat, read sacred texts, and had conversations with monks. I now see how beautiful these religions are. Sure, many of the ideas and details are odd to me but these religions have motivated masterpieces and are an integral part of a friendly and considerate society. It behooves an "educated" member of American society to learn something real about the religions that a third of the world's population subscribe to because we can better ourselves and become more refined intellectuals when we are exposed to viewpoints different from our own.

Although most of Southeast Asia is exciting and gorgeous, there are darker areas as well. In the more run down areas of San Diego we are often exposed to a large homeless population wandering around trying to bum money off of people or score drugs. I see them all the time and don't think twice. What I don't see all the time in San Diego though are impoverish orphans, three and four years old, living in gutters and begging me for anything. I don't usually see large families living in mold soaked shacks that line the putrid klongs of Bangkok. I don't usually see desperate men toil and scrape by with their families unable to make more money because of a strict caste system that keeps them in submission. All of this is shocking but it causes one to look at themselves and at their own country. During my time here I have gained more compassion. I am reminded, and have become more appreciative, of the fact that I live in a country where all men are equal. Those God given natural rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness really mean something when you see someone who has none of that. It is not common to be exposed to people in Europe with nothing but their families, their religions, and their unending inequality. This alarming reality and subsequent introspection is life changing, is life improving, and is only available far away from the West.

The sights of the poor and suffering are painful but they do not define the experience in Southeast Asia. This place is beyond beautiful, and studying here is above all a terrific adventure. During your stay you will spot elephants and monkeys in traffic. You will drink and eat in florescent bars where you will meet people from all over the world who came here with the sole purpose of having fun. You will journey to paradises like Koh Chang and Chiang Mai and take snapchats on the beaches where the screensaver photo on your phone was taken. You will explore the jungles and temples built by ancient civilizations. You will learn new words and to love the muggy heat that intensifies both the atmosphere inside a dance club and casual strolls around the busy cities. Most importantly, you will learn about yourself. You will learn that we inhabit a world not all the way Westernized, and how you can fit into it. You will learn that reflection on societies and ideologies different from your own make you a more enlightened person. You will learn to make the most of this life and go on every adventure that it offers.           


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If You've Ever Been Called Overly-Emotional Or Too Sensitive, This Is For You

Despite what they have told you, it's a gift.

Emotional: a word used often nowadays to insult someone for their sensitivity towards a multitude of things.

If you cry happy tears, you're emotional. If you express (even if it's in a healthy way) that something is bothering you, you're sensitive. If your hormones are in a funk and you just happen to be sad one day, you're emotional AND sensitive.

Let me tell you something that goes against everything people have probably ever told you. Being emotional and being sensitive are very, very good things. It's a gift. Your ability to empathize, sympathize, and sensitize yourself to your own situation and to others' situations is a true gift that many people don't possess, therefore many people do not understand.

Never let someone's negativity toward this gift of yours get you down. We are all guilty of bashing something that is unfamiliar to us: something that is different. But take pride in knowing God granted this special gift to you because He believes you will use it to make a difference someday, somehow.

This gift of yours was meant to be utilized. It would not be a part of you if you were not meant to use it. Because of this gift, you will change someone's life someday. You might be the only person that takes a little extra time to listen to someone's struggle when the rest of the world turns their backs.

In a world where a six-figure income is a significant determinant in the career someone pursues, you might be one of the few who decides to donate your time for no income at all. You might be the first friend someone thinks to call when they get good news, simply because they know you will be happy for them. You might be an incredible mother who takes too much time to nurture and raise beautiful children who will one day change the world.

To feel everything with every single part of your being is a truly wonderful thing. You love harder. You smile bigger. You feel more. What a beautiful thing! Could you imagine being the opposite of these things? Insensitive and emotionless?? Both are unhealthy, both aren't nearly as satisfying, and neither will get you anywhere worth going in life.

Imagine how much richer your life is because you love other's so hard. It might mean more heartache, but the reward is always worth the risk. Imagine how much richer your life is because you are overly appreciative of the beauty a simple sunset brings. Imagine how much richer your life is because you can be moved to tears by the lessons of someone else's story.

Embrace every part of who you are and be just that 100%. There will be people who criticize you for the size of your heart. Feel sorry for them. There are people who are dishonest. There are people who are manipulative. There are people who are downright malicious. And the one thing people say to put you down is "you feel too much." Hmm...

Sounds like more of a compliment to me. Just sayin'.

Cover Image Credit: We Heart It

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5 Vital And Helpful Tips I Live By When Packing For A Trip

Try and pack smarter, not harder.


If you are anything like me, you tend to overpack thinking you are being a great packer and being ready for any scenario that life may throw at you. Well, that is, unfortunately untrue, and I have learned that you are only doing more harm than good. Over the years, I have come up with five tips I always use when traveling and have been proven to work. You've heard of the five golden rules of life, and, well, these are the five golden rules/tips of packing.

1. Start with a packing list.

This is the best tip I could give to anyone else who is getting ready to travel. Making a list is very useful, especially when stressed about your travel. You will not forget anything because you have it all written down. A packing list is a great way to keep organized when packing.

2. Use space bags.

Now, this is a tip my dad lives by. Space bags are great when you are packing because it protects your clothes and makes room to put a lot in your suitcase. The crazy story of a time when my dad was traveling, and his friend's bag was soaked with the shampoo he brought on the plane. All his clothes and everything inside the suitcase was ruined. So always use space bags because you never know what could happen on the flight. You can buy a space bag here.

3. Pack the essentials first.

I will be honest and say that I do over-pack a lot. I use the line "just in case" as an excuse to pack my entire house. But I have learned that packing for "just in case" is a waste of time. When you first sit down to pack, lay out all your essentials. For example, clothes that you will wear during the trip. You will be surprised to see how effective it is.

SEE ALSO: 10 Reasons Chicago Is The Best City In The World

4. ALWAYS pack an extra outfit in your carry on.

This tip is one that I have been very grateful that I used. A while ago during my trip to Canada, my check-in bag was missing and delayed for multiple hours. Luckily I had an extra outfit to keep me fresh and not feel gross. It is always crucial to this in your carry on In case of emergencies such as your bag getting lost.

5. Put identification on your suitcase.

Everyone in the airport somehow tends to have the same black or red suitcase that you have, which only means confusing when you're trying to find your check-in bag. To quickly identify your suitcase, put a sticker, or tie a ribbon on the handle. You can easily pick up your suitcase and leave. This will prevent any sneaky people trying to steal or claim that your suitcase is theirs.

P.S.: Use a bright color ribbon or a different sticker. Also, tie the ribbon properly to make sure it's secured.

I live by these five packing tips every time I travel so I hope you can use them the next time you take a trip!

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