Studying abroad, a priceless experience

Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0. Attribution kentaroiemoto at

“Just imagine you’re weightless, in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by tiny little seahorses.” These words, spoken by Deb in the film Napoleon Dynamite, never hit home for me as much as when I discovered the Pacific Study Abroad Program here at Tech. Twelve weeks traveling between Fiji and Australia, seeing amazing sights and literally living on resorts along the way? You better believe I went to that information session. And then I realized that the cost of the trip would not so much break the bank as detonate a nuclear bomb at the center of said bank, making the surrounding area uninhabitable for the next 50 years. But I digress.

I had to choose a different program. Italy seemed pretty classy, and I was a film major. I did the math. The Bocconi Milano was within my price range, and it was in Europe, the hypnotic, irresistible bug zapper for college-aged wanderers. And so I went to my advisor, all innocent and full of hope, and then I found out that the Bocconi program catered almost exclusively to business majors, and that I would have to take about five unnecessary classes if I ever wanted to step foot on that sweet Italian soil.

My search continued.

Eventually I decided to give up and pick the cheapest program that accepted my major. The country in question ended up being Scotland, home of a thousand lakes and one annoyingly anti-social mythological creature. I was pretty dismissive at first (which was a pretty bad first-world problem, now that I think about it), but eventually I started looking at pros, and there were a lot of them. Ancient castles? The movie Brave? Nessie? You better believe I will be going to that session.

And so the moral of this strange, first-world problem story is a pretty specific one. Studying abroad is such a rare adventure that college students have the chance to participate in, and the location does not really matter as much as the choice we make to throw ourselves into a strange environment, if only to discover the type of people we will come out as on the other end.

If I get accepted into the program, I will be studying abroad in Scotland this spring. It was not my first choice, or even my second, but I would not change it now even if I had the chance. And it actually might end up costing less than a normal semester here at Tech, so bully for that. Plus, I’ll get to catch the fourth season premiere of Game of Thrones about five hours before you fools here in the States do, so there’s that.

But what really matters is that I am packing my bags and going, and I encourage my fellow students to try and do the same in their own time. Sure, worry some about the amount of credit hours you will be able to take, and worry more about the cost, but worry most about the choice not to go out and experience another part of this world while you can. Life is short, and it’s a pretty big planet.