When I was twenty my university professor sent me to Paris to study art and literature, and my life has never been the same.
Going into the trip, I knew that it would be quite an experience, and that it would be a great way to take what I’d been studying in the classroom and see how it held up in the real world. By the time I boarded my flight back to the U.S. six months later, I’d found that my adventure abroad had far surpassed my expectations.
Out of the Classroom
Whether you’re studying art, business, science, or whatnot, nothing drives home the impact of what you’re learning in the classroom like witnessing it in action, out there in the real world.
For me that meant seeing Monet’s Woman with a Parasol in its full glory rather than in a textbook. It meant walking the streets that I’d had described to me be authors like Balzac and Hemingway, Joyce and Nin. It meant heated debates on café terraces with students and artists from all over the world.
The perspective this provided proved to be invaluable, and I’m not limiting this effect to artists.
If you plan on going into business, venture to Berlin, Tokyo, or Singapore, and discover how business is conducted on an international stage. For aspiring scientists, learn the value of sharing ideas across borders by visiting Stockholm, Oxford, or Beijing.
Regardless of your field, the world is rich with opportunity for learning. Strike out into the jungles of Peru or the grasslands of Zambia, explore the architecture of Sydney or Barcelona, apply your knowledge of humanitarian issues firsthand in Mumbai or Mexico City.
My point is that this world is ripe for the opportunity to put theory to the test, if only one is prepared to venture out and find it.
Lessons for a Lifetime
The lessons and benefits that a student gains during his or her time abroad can prove to have lifelong effects.
I myself made friendships and connections that have benefited me both personally and professionally. My language abilities grew exponentially, and not only in French – phrases from Spanish, Russian, Serbian, Vietnamese, and a host of other cultures entered my lexicon. I learned new perspectives from all around the globe, and became better equipped for the emerging international community.
More than anything, I learned that there is a big world out there, and that I wanted to continue exploring it. I have, and the value of international travel has been reinforced again and again.
A student can only learn so much in the classroom. At some point, she needs to head out into the world and see where the proverbial rubber hits the proverbial road.