Hi! My name is Alyssa and I am a student Franklin University Switzerland, which happens to be located in SWITZERLAND!
For two years now, I've been studying abroad and basically living as an US expat in the Italian region of Switzerland. I've had to learn how to speak Italian and, in general, learn the ways of the Swiss.
Plus, one of my university's best assets is their Academic Travel course, where students are basically required to travel around Europe and other areas (like South Africa and Japan) for class credits. So, not only have I had to learn the ways of the Swiss, but basically how not to offend or stand out as a tourist across Europe. It helps that my university is diverse, with many of its students coming from around the world (think Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Russia).
I've become a huge believer of the benefits that studying abroad can bring the average American student, and it hurts me so much that many American students don't even want to.
So, here are some reasons that I feel that studying abroad should no longer be an option but a requirement for American students. I mean, in the olden days, it was basically required for a well-educated individual to have studied abroad.
1. It breaks stereotypes.
One of the core teachings of my school is based on this TED talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie called "The Danger of A Single Story." The basic teaching of Adichie's talk is that there is always more than one perspective about another person or country and that only believing in one perspective can lead to deep misunderstandings.
While living abroad, I've learned the importance of realizing the faults of the single story. While in Rome, I learned that the picturesque romantic image of the city displayed in the media (think "Roman Holiday" or "When In Rome") is not exactly true. The city is crowded and can be dirty. Plus, depending on the area, it's clear to see the residents are sick and tired of tourists. This doesn't mean it's not fun to visit Rome. The ancient ruins are amazing, believe me. Please visit actually because the trip is worth. Just know, the city just isn't only the loveliness found in "The Lizzie McGuire Movie" (still waiting for my Paolo to appear). The movie "The Grand Beauty" could be a better way to understand the modern city, if you're interested.
Nonetheless, studying abroad breaks the preconceived notions and images of the stereotypes we've been taught to believe in back home. It gives you more than what vacationing could ever give you.
2. It brings opportunity for the exchange of ideas.
An unique experience to happen in most American universities is the chance to meet people from all over. This aspect is brought to a whole different level when you study abroad, especially at my university (Franklin University Switzerland). Like I mentioned before, my university population is pretty diverse. Although there is a large majority of the population coming from America (I did mention my university is an American school with all courses taught in English, right?), we still have many students coming from countries around the world like Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Germany, etc. In addition, while traveling around Europe, your bound to meet strangers and end up conversing with them.
Putting that all in perspective, everyone is bound to have different upbringings and ideas than yourself. From my experience, many people are interested in the life of an American, so you'll have plenty to talk about. However, I urge you to listen unbiasedly to the stories and thoughts of the other individuals. It just makes you start to think differently. Suddenly, the countries and cultures have faces and names to them and finally you start seeing them as humans and not the faces of news stories that are difficult to relate to.
3. It breaks your bubble.
Strangely enough, while growing up in America, you start to gain the American pride. You start thinking towards foreigners, "this is America, so you should know English!" For some reason that pride carries with you abroad and you continue to think "I only need to know English and they'll all forgive me because I am American and I can do anything". Sorry to break this to you, but it all isn't true.
While studying abroad, your American pride is broken and you start to learn of the word "humility" (definitely a word that should be more reinforced). From what I've experienced so far, every other country believes the same thing we do except it's more like "you're in Switzerland, so at least know French, German, or Italian, and if you speak English, sorry to break this to you, but I don't understand you." If you think you can get away with anything abroad because you're a foreigner who doesn't know better, I can say that's definitely not true, for the most part.
So, the lesson is that being American doesn't make you all powerful. Sometimes just vacationing abroad doesn't give you that perspective, because usually you're just venturing to the tourist friendly areas. Studying abroad, however, enriches your soul and your mind.
So, that's my spiel for this week. I wonder what else I'll talk about next week? Maybe my recent adventure in France?
Stay up-to-date with me by following my Instagram: @afridayhabit
See you next week!