You can’t get there from here: The importance of travel

Education, Essays, International, Students

TL;DR: Traveling and study abroad is a life changing experience. 

My freshman roommate and I were not that different, on the surface. Both white males from suburban school districts (he Chicago-land, I DC Metro) and living in a typical first year residence. I quickly realized we had little in common in terms of social lives and mores. I spent my summers coaching swimming and managing a pool while he followed the Grateful Dead around the country. A “good guy” by everyone’s account, it wasn’t a situation I was happy with and moved rooms over the winter break.

In my new suite I met people who were again quite different. One student, a Navy ROTC cadet, was taking Swahili, believed that he was an African in a prior life, and became the first white man to pledge the African American fraternity Omega Psi Phi. Another was a Chinese-born man from New York City. He and his wife remain two of my closest friends to this day. Through Kai, I encountered worlds and traditions that I never would have experienced otherwise.

These are the sorts of experiences we talk about when we say that college will help expand a student’s “world view.” Even without leaving their home state, they can get a glimpse of the world through another person’s eyes and experience. That is always enlightening but it takes intentionality; we need to reflect on those encounters and relationships in order to learn from them.