As seen in The Miami Student: Editorial Section

When I talk about going abroad for a year, the reactions are surprisingly always similar.

“Wait, a whole year? Like, two semesters? Whoa.”

I’m always struck by these reactions, as if some people can’t believe that anyone would want to be away from Oxford for that long. I’ve even talked to people who have said that: “Wow, good for you. I wouldn’t want to be away from Oxford for a whole year.”

I can understand this perspective — we do only have four years here, our time for fun is limited. But this is also the only time we can travel so conveniently, for long periods of time, this cheaply. (I smile when I write the word “cheap” in terms of education associated with Miami, but, in this case, it’s true. The world is simply much more accessible for college students.)

When I met with my study abroad adviser and told him I planned to be out of the States for a year, he said, “Yes! You’re my first one traveling for that long.” Miami prides itself in being one of the top schools in the nation for most students studying abroad, which is such a valuable trait for an institution to have. But to what extent are students actually travelling? Are they mostly doing short winter or summer term programs, or semester and year-long ones?

I’ve heard from multiple people who have studied abroad that the semester-long program just wasn’t enough. By the time you begin to feel immersed in the culture, you’re suddenly taken out of it. 

I don’t hate Miami. In fact, I’ve met more amazing people here than I ever thought possible and I’m going to be a total mess when I leave them for 365 days. I won’t be able to get a house with my roommate, I won’t be able to goof off with the boys I’ve lived with for the past two years who I’ve come to love like family. I’m missing a few great academic opportunities, and with my double major it’s highly probable that I’ll be doing a victory lap. So, why the heck am I leaving?

Sometimes, when your gut tells you to do something big, you just have to follow it. That’s why I’m leaving. I know there’s more beyond Oxford, and I want to experience it. Traveling not only makes you more independent, confident and capable, but it also challenges you to learn about what you can and can’t handle. To discover these parts of yourself, you have to ditch the comfort zone.

Plus, check this out. According to IES Abroad, students who study abroad are more likely to secure a job within one year after graduation than their non-adventurous counterparts. Ninety percent of students who studied abroad got their first or second choice graduate school.

And, according to PsychCentral, students who study abroad become better people. How can you compete with that statistic? Measuring what they consider to be the Big Five basic dimensions of the human personality (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and emotional stability), researchers have found that traveling and learning abroad strengthened every single one of those in their group of travelers. Just imagine what being abroad for a year could do for you. I’m not making this stuff up. You don’t have to be a special kind of person to leave home for a long time.

This is a common misconception I notice when I talk to people about going abroad.

I grew up incredibly shy, self-conscious and introverted. I recognize that traveling might just be the perfect cure for these traits, so I’m going. I encourage anyone who wants to set themselves a part to do something that scares them, whatever that might be.

Get out of Oxford, get out of the country and maybe stay there for a long time.You’ll learn so much about yourself and you’ll surprise people along the way.

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