Studying Abroad 30 Years After College
As a child, I used to stare at atlases and photographs from National Geographic for hours on end. In high-school I studied Latin and French. While my friends were reading Seventeen magazine, I was reading Italian Vogue. I loved watching “French in Action,” the PBS television show that followed the lives of Professor Capretz and his students Mireille, Marie-Laure, Robert, Cecile, and Jean-Luc.
To this day, every time I buy something frivolous I think of it as a percentage of that potential ticket.
A one-day chance encounter with a group of French exchange students soon left an indelible impression on me. Thinking about the colorful posters and fliers that featured blue skies, young smiling faces, and iconic landmarks, I asked myself why I was not participating in an exchange program. I eventually applied for a summer study program in Paris but couldn’t garner enough resources to cover my expenses. To this day, every time I buy something frivolous I think of it as a percentage of that potential ticket.
My life went on. I went off to college. I graduated. In fact, I got a job. I got engaged. I went back to school. And I ended my engagement. I graduated. And I began teaching. My first real travel experience came as a graduate fellow, when I attended a two-week conference at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Since then, I’ve visited eleven different countries.
Sometimes my trips have been for pleasure but mainly they’ve been academic. I’ve scaled the Great Wall, toured favelas, surfed in Durban, sipped tea along the Bosporus, toured 14th century slave dungeons, vintage shopped in Rome, and left offerings at a Balinese temple. My adventures have ranged from a three-day symposium in Austria to two months in South Africa for a documentary studies project.
Studying Abroad 30 Years After College.
Last summer, I participated in a three-month home stay/language immersion program in Indonesia. Through it all, I’ve never stopped wondering how different would my life would have been had I studied abroad. How would it have shaped my perspective of the world? What about my research interests? What else could I have done if I were fluent in a second language?
Nearly thirty years later, I’m finally getting the chance to do just that. When I learned that the School of Library and Information Sciences, which I currently attend at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill, had a program in Prague I jumped at the chance to go. I’m now heading to Charles University, where I’ll be engaged in a digital library field experience. I keep pinching myself knowing that March to June is the absolute best time to travel Europe.
I’ve never stopped wondering how different would my life would have been had I studied abroad.
In preparation for my trip I have spoken with local residents, consulted travel guides and read Kafka’s famous short stories. I’ve also found my own apartment in a neighborhood near the metro. This great opportunity for professional development also comes with plans to visit friends and colleagues who are also teaching, traveling and working in Europe. Gone are my days of being a novice traveler, who once fretted about having the proper adapter and making international phone calls. Now, my biggest concern is how to pack for two seasons.
Studying Abroad 30 Years After College photo credits by Unsplash.