“Study abroad is an experience that many students hear about prior to starting college, yet it is something that remains untested by large portions of the student body. It is a fantastical-sounding proposition that promises of “dreams coming true,” “life-changing moments,” using such catchphrases and buzzwords like “unforgettable,” capturing the interest of students of all backgrounds. Many consider this opportunity before starting college and during their freshman year. Inevitably, delays set in as life’s challenges mount and attention is scattered. “I’ll worry about that later,” or “I’ll have lots of time to do that when I’m an upperclassman” are among the many excuses that students use to delay their foray into studying abroad. Eventually, many realize that the opportunity has passed them by when it is too late. It is no coincidence that one major regret repeated amongst large factions of college graduates is that they wish they had studied abroad when they had the chance, all of them falling into the same boat swept away by procrastination, lack of adventuresome-ness, fear of the unknown, or a combination of limitations.
Life becomes much more complicated the further a student gets into college, and the pressure and stress that accompany these complications increase with every passing day. Classes, jobs, relationships, and such can leave little time for even thinking about a personally-enriching experience, let alone actually taking action to make it happen. I know this because midway through my sophomore year at St. Edward’s I had not even considered studying abroad, instead focusing exclusively on my schoolwork and extracurricular activities. I had discussed study abroad with my friends and classmates before, with a few of my friends having completed semesters in foreign countries already, but I had never really given the possibility that I might study abroad myself much thought, and when I did, I usually talked myself out of it. “I don’t have time for that,” I thought. “Would it even be worth it?” I worried. “Where would I go?” I pondered. Excuses threatened to wash away the seed of study abroad before it had even been allowed to take root.
Eventually, I decided “Heck, why not? It can’t hurt,” and thus the process began that led to a truly wonderful experience. I went down to the Global Engagement Office, set an appointment with Meghan Ryan, figured out what needed to be done, filled out all the necessary applications and forms, attended orientation, booked my flight, and before I knew it I was off to The Hague, The Netherlands to study business for 4 months. I have never been much of a traveler, and I was admittedly nervous to live in a country so far away from home for an extended period of time. “What if I don’t like the country?” “what if I have a hard time making friends?” “what if I get homesick?” were all “what-ifs,” among others, that I stressed about at various points in time.
I can say comfortably that I took a risk that has paid off tremendously. The Netherlands is an amazing country, with so many sights to see and stroopwafels to eat (if you have never tried one of these delicious Dutch treats, I highly recommend that you get your hands on one in any way possible). Through my study program, I have met students from Indonesia, Belgium, Austria, Turkey, Moldova, Russia, El Salvador, Sweden, Germany, Japan, and too many other countries to count. I have developed strong friendships with many of these students and look forward to visiting them in their home countries in the future. I have developed a more informed, multi-dimensional perspective on my major, Business Marketing. I have learned a bit of the Dutch language, ridden a bicycle almost every day, embarked on tours via train and boat, and gained so much knowledge and insight into various cultures across the world. As I write this, I realize how truly blessed I am to have been given this opportunity. All those buzzwords like “unforgettable” that I initially met with skepticism have been confirmed and then some.
So, I implore all Hilltoppers who haven’t already to make an appointment with the Global Engagement Office to begin their own study abroad journey. Such an experience may be difficult to fathom at the moment, with classes in full swing and all the stress that comes along with school eating away at even the most easygoing student’s sanity. Especially in modern times, students are of the belief that school should take precedent above all else, that their education cannot be compromised for any reason. There is nothing wrong with thinking this way, but with study abroad, school does not need to be compromised whatsoever! A student can continue the pursuit of their degree while enjoying all that a new environment has to offer. Think of it as school but with an added degree of adventure. Considering all the fascinating locations offered for study abroad, why wouldn’t you do it? I am glad that I came to this conclusion and hope that my fellow Hilltoppers will do the same.
St. Edward’s University is founded on Holy Cross values, which include the bravery to take risks and a global perspective. Essentially, these values encapsulate the study abroad experience. It enriches a student’s outlook while simultaneously making them more aware of the world at large. And, most importantly, it’s a lot of fun and provides a library’s-worth of great memories to look back on. The catchphrases hold true – study abroad is absolutely, unequivocally life-changing.”