The Trevi Fountain, Sydney Opera House, The Berlin Wall, The Eiffel Tower...all are amazing places that can be found in international destinations. I'm sure most people have at least one of these destinations on their bucket list. So why not check it off your list now? There are in fact ways you can experience the wonders this world has to offer while in college and on a budget!
I first travelled internationally in Europe in the winter of 2015. I went on a 10 day trip with my high school to Italy. We flew to Rome then to Sicily and made stops in Sicily, Naples and then we got back to Rome for a few days of exploring everything the city had to offer. It was too short of a trip to fully experience the culture and everything the three cities had to offer. That's why I'll be returning to Italy this May with my Art and Architecture class as a part of the St. Joseph's College Study Abroad Program.
This time we'll be starting in Rome and then making our way to Florence and eventually Tuscany. With a lot more freedom and free time on our hands, my friends and I are planning to really delve ourselves deep into the culture and experiences that Italy offers people like us. I had an amazing time traveling the country the first time and I'm excited to go back and do even more than I was able to do in the past. There are many great things about traveling abroad, but I want to talk about just a few of them right now.
First of all you get to experience a whole different culture. In Italy shops and businesses close for lunch and everyone goes home from school and work to have lunch with their families. In the US no such custom or concept exists. Also, other things like driving differs greatly from the US. Sure we have crazy drivers here but most people in Italy have slightly dangerous driving tendencies. I experienced this almost being run off a sidewalk walking through Rome. Crowds in New York City have no worry as many walk in front of cars without a care. The drivers here have to be extra careful while driving through crowded city streets. However, in Rome and big Italian cities, pedestrians don't really have the right of way. Cautious pedestrians are more at risk than those walking through the streets of New York. Different cultural practices and a language barrier of course challenge those traveling through Italy and of course other international destinations and cities as well. But, being able to navigate through a whole new world is a rewarding experience and a great challenge that is rewarding to overcome.
Another great thing about traveling abroad is meeting new people and seeing beautiful landmarks and historical sites that everyone has heard about. Witnessing the beauty of the Sistine Chapel in person instead of reading about it in a textbook is such a rewarding experience, not to mention the cafe attached to the chapel serves a greattttt cappuccino. The food in Italy is unlike anything else. Our Italian restaurants here will seem like a joke once you return from a trip of experiencing some of the finest foods in the world. Beauty can be found in the atmosphere, the people, and of course the great architecture.
So, what's the best thing about traveling abroad? Being educated properly on a destination for an entire semester and then finally being submerged in the culture and lifestyle of that destination is unlike anything else. Here's an analogy for you. In math class you learn about a certain algorithm or problem solving set. You learn about what it has to do with, how to solve it and what is involved with it. Then after a few examples, you are trusted to complete some problems on your own and experience the math independently. The same thing goes for traveling abroad with school! You take a class like architecture or landscape painting. You learn about certain pieces of art like paintings or famous building. You learn about their creator, where they're from, they're biography, the meaning of the piece. You learn pretty much all there is to learn about the art, and then you travel to see and experience the art for yourself. Of course you may appreciate the beauty in the classroom, but when you're standing in front of the piece, the art takes on a whole new life of its own. It's an incredibly rewarding experience that not many people get to have in their lives. Which is why I strongly encourage traveling abroad.
Most schools offer studying abroad experiences and I do suggest looking into the program that your school offers. There are almost always grants and scholarships that you can apply for to help you afford the experience of your choice. And although the programs aren't free, the experience and cultural tasting is so worth the investment. You don't want to miss out on these international experiences. So, go out there and look into what kind of experience best fits your goals and international travel desires! I guarantee that you will be able to find a program that speaks to the curious adventurer inside of you!