“Copenhagen as your home; Europe as your classroom.”
As cheesy as it may sound, DIS’s motto captures the spirit of my study abroad experience.
This semester, I’ve traveled to ten countries: Sweden, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Iceland, Holland, Ireland, Hungary, Spain, and Norway. I’ve packed in new experience after new experience. I’ve “broadened my horizons,” “expanded my worldview,” and any other cliché study abroad phrase you’d like to insert. It’s dishonest, though, compressing my time spent “gallivanting around Europe” (as one friend put it) into a single take-away point.
When I look back 20 years from now, what will I remember? Unfortunately, I won’t remember all the details: the colorful mosaics sprinkled throughout Barcelona, the taste of gelato melting in my mouth on a warm, sunny day in Venice, the head rush felt as I plunged into a frozen lake in Finland. I wish I could trap my memories in a jar, perfect and unchanged, but there is also beauty in temporality.
People travel for all different reasons: for business and pleasure, for new experiences and old connections, to escape the banality of life at home and to post envy-inducing photos on Instagram with the hashtag #wanderlust. (Please, don’t be one of those people.)
Traveling wakes you up. You’re forced to see a new perspective, to question what you always saw as normal. I find myself Googling things like, “Do you tip in Ireland?” and “Why does the water in Iceland smell like rotten eggs?” Traveling is the ultimate learning experience. You learn about others and you learn about yourself.
Because of my time spent living abroad, I’m more open-minded. As author Jonathan Lehrer put it “…travelers are alive to ambiguity, more willing to realize that there are different (and equally valid) ways of interpreting the world.” I’m more flexible. I’m more creative. I’ve grown as a result of the experiences I’ve had.
I’m so grateful for this opportunity. DIS was right. Europe taught me more than a textbook ever could.