Education Abroad – Traveling to Learn

Voices surround us with wisdom and truth. Some speak our language, others exude their lessons through interactions and observing others in their natural state. Traveling is one of the most educational platforms the world has today. Let me say that in a different way: a FANTASTIC way to learn about the world and the people in it is to travel through it!

When exposed to cultures abroad, we subconsciously reflect on the standards and methods of our home country while simultaneously witnessing and learning procedures and systems of the international world. This method, compare and contrast, allows us to ask why things are the way they are all over the planet. Are you considering taking a gap year to explore and work abroad? Do it! There are a plethora of options for you when it comes to funding your travels.

To travel abroad, it is essential to consider your options: first, choose a region of the world that is conducive to your budget. A few thousand dollars will go a long way in many countries, whereas you will need to save and earn much more to have a sustainable lifestyle in Europe and Scandinavia. Other resources to utilize are host families, nonprofits and volunteer opportunities, work exchange programs like workaway.info or wwoofinternational.org, creating a Couchsurfing profile, and remaining connected with friends met along the way. The possibilities are endless!

Panama
Working on a farm in Boquete, Panama

Another option for pursuing education by immersion is student exchange. Perhaps you apply directly through a course or university in another country, or you work with a college in your hometown or state to transfer as an exchange student. Values of studying abroad include immersing ourselves in a world that differs from our everyday “normal,” allowing us to grasp other perspectives, mindsets, and practices. Listening to lectures and participating in discussions with students and residents of another country allow you to pull from that “Compare and Contrast” mentality in a nonabrasive, open-minded context… one of the main purposes for your living there is to learn new ways of approaching life! Most people will be happy to introduce you to their mannerisms and lifestyles. And if both parties apply this desire to understand how you are different and all the ways you are similar to one another, you will most likely have a lot of laughs as you embark on the journey of appreciating the world’s diversity.

Challenges we face abroad are unique and often put us outside of our comfort zones. They can include learning to cope with cultural misunderstandings, being patient with ourselves while learning new languages, and struggling to plant ourselves somewhere semi-permanently and establish a temporary home. Learning to laugh at yourself and acknowledge how you’ve always approached life as merely preferences, you are going to easily face and conquer those very challenges. Studying and growing in our understanding is a lifelong process, remaining humble and childlike in our needs to be taught and recognizing the importance of observing new things will help you profoundly in life, and in your experiences abroad.

Cursi, Italia
Dancing with new friends in Cursi, Italia 

I enjoy reading about others’ experiences, and love to share my own perspective as well. We don’t always know how to relate with someone’s stories, but sometimes the gift is in stepping back from the mental paradigm we live in and imagining what they are describing. This helps us create support systems with peers and acquaintances. Why not expand your network, friends, and familial bonds to the ends of the earth?!

Guangzhou, China
Exploring with University students in Guangzhou, China 

Read, listen, watch informative videos… but take the leap and travel to learn!

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