Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Best Education is Found Outside of the Classroom

This past spring semester I was far from the bay breeze and routine I had nestled myself into at USF. I was now eating gelato daily, avoiding eye contact and causal smiles with men, laughing with friends amongst some of the world’s most celebrated sites, and every so often checking my purse to insure a gypsy hadn’t emerged victorious with my wallet and passport in hand. For four short months I was wandering the cobblestone streets living and learning in the Eternal City as I studied abroad at The John Felice Rome Center.

My experiences in Rome, all throughout Italy, and the three other countries I visited, can't be given justice with even the most extravagant and heavy hearted words. Sure, when your asked, “how was your time abroad?” It’s fun to say, “I skied the Swiss Alps, went to a famous Flamenco bar in Southern Spain, swam in the Mediterranean, took a gondola ride in Venice during Carnivale, went wine tasting in Tuscany, and even popped champagne underneath the Eiffel Tower.” But as I learned early on, the exuberant and giddy feeling that you get from sharing stories of abroad comes off as arrogant and showboating to others. I now tend to reply with a simple and understated, “amazing. Indescribable.” Because going abroad cannot be explained but rather must be experienced.

Luckily, students throughout the United States have started to take advantage of the study abroad experience. According to the Open Doors report in 2007, the number of American students receiving academic credit for their study abroad has increased 150% in the past decade, from fewer than 90,000 students in 1995/96.

Below, Vistawide provides reasons for students to get those visas approved:
-It is the optimal way to learn a language
-Study abroad provides the opportunity to travel
-Allows you to get to know another culture first-hand
-Will help you develop skills and give you experiences a classroom setting will never provide
-Study abroad helps you to learn about yourself
-It expands your worldview
-Gives you the opportunity to break out of your academic routine
-Study abroad enhances employment opportunities
-Study abroad can enhance the value of your degree

For me, studying abroad truly was the epitome of the overstated yet underrated cliché, “time of my life.” Besides, how else are you going to learn how to say “cheers” in several different languages…

“Prost!” “Cin Cin!” “Salud!” “A Votre Sante!”