Why Studying Abroad Should be a Requirement, Not an Option, for American Students

Why Studying Abroad Should be a Requirement, Not an Option, for American Students

Because studying abroad enriches your soul and your mind.
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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!

Cover Image Credit: Alyssa Viernes

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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American Or Christian?

Can you really be both?

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This is a thought that has lingered in my mind for a very long time.

Personally, I hate news and politics. It's depressing and it seems like both parties (and people in general) just don't get it. Political conversation gets on my ever-loving nerves and literally gets me down in the dumps for the day.

I just simply don't watch it anymore. There is too much negativity.

That doesn't mean that I am uniformed. I am not advocating for ignorance or anything like that. I prefer to read and figure out my information from sites "in the middle."

As I was eating dinner with my wife the other day we started talking about the new Abortion laws in Alabama and Georgia. As a Christ-follower and a staunch defender of Biblical inerrant, I detest abortion.

Before you read any farther, you must understand something: This article is not about my defense of my beliefs regarding hot topics like abortion or homosexuality. I do not have the time to write about said topics now. I am just asking you to accept what I believe for the sake of the article.

But, anyway, these abortion bills. I can make a pretty good case that they are Constitutional because they are protecting the Life (one of the Rights given to American Citizens) from others. Yes, I know the arguments against said point but continue with me please.

This led our conversation to talk about Homosexual marriage, something that I am against as well. And not just because of Leviticus but because of the New Testament as well.

But, shaking my head, I said something that my wife seemed to agree with:

"As a Christian, I know it's wrong and I cannot agree with it. As an American, I see no reason why it should be illegal. Unless your choices infringe someone's Rights, you should be free to do what you wish (technically speaking)."

This is my dilemma. Well, actually it's not a dilemma. I know that I am a Christian before I am an American. I love this country greatly, and I know how blessed I am to be born here. For all the hate this country gets (and some of it is deserved) and all the problems we have (and we have a lot), we are shoulders above other countries in many ways. I am so thankful for all the men and women who have served to protect me and keep me safe. I'm thankful for a lot of things. And I am proud to be an American.

But my identity in Christ comes first. This is why I do not get into politics much. I don't really care at the end of the day. Because while America has been blessed, we still have work to do here. And this is not my forever home. This is not where I will spend eternity.

I try and respect everyone's opinions, and I earnestly try to love everyone, even when they trash and disrespect my beliefs and convictions. But I must put my call to Christ about anything that has to do with this nation. I will pray for ALL our leaders because I was told to do so (I prayed for President Obama when he was in office). And I will be here to support this nation. But I cannot put it above Christ's commands.

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