‘When you travel away from a place where you have spent many years of your life, you leave behind a negative space, an empty contour of the person who left. When you return from your travels, you expect- and are expected- to occupy that same space again, but it never quite fits you, because you’ve changed. It’s not only uncomfortable for you but mildly disconcerting to those who know you well.’
Justin Trudeau, Common Ground, pg. 102.
Travelling, at any age and stage in life, is always an enriching and wholesome experience. When you travel you are being exposed to new cultures, peoples, languages, and ways of life. You get to see places you’ve only read about in books, or seen in movies. You get to taste new flavours, smell new scents, hear new sounds. Suddenly, the world is a roadmap of places you’ve been, and places you have yet to go.
Travelling as a student is like this and more. Because as a student, you see the world a little differently than everyone else. When you travel as a student, it’s not so much as a vacation, but rather an educational experience that moulds who you are. The experiences of what you go through as a student has a huge impact on who you grow to become, your career choices, even the types of people you choose to surround yourself with.
Here are some reasons why student travel is important.
A symptom of being young is being malleable. How many young people do you know have an exact idea of who they are and what they want from life? Maybe you do know a few, but my personal philosophy is that there is no such thing as a person who knows exactly who they are because the concept of identity is fluid. We are constantly changing, evolving as people, growing. And when you’re young, this is more potent; you’re still new to this world, and there are so many new experiences waiting ahead of you.
This is a time in your life where the things you do, the people you meet, and the places you go all have the privilege of sticking with you the longest. You’re at an advantage, because you’re aware of this. When you choose to travel, you are playing an active role in building your character, and becoming a more globalized individual.
Social and Global Awareness
As a student, you like to consider yourself fairly socially aware. You’ve written enough papers on colonialism, capitalism, and the dynamics of political systems to have a good view of the way the world works… right?
There is no better classroom than the world. Reading about political corruption in heavily worded academic papers is one thing, actually seeing it being manifested before your eyes is another. Both are valid, and both are necessary.
When you see first hand the actual results of all those political theories you learn about in lectures, you get to understand the complexities behind them. Further, you get to humanize them. You see the faces of those most affected, and you might even get to talk to individuals about the obstacles they have experienced. No matter what, you will leave understanding a lot more than you ever could from books and papers alone.
Exposure to a Better Quality Experience
Why do things always feel more romantic when you’re away from home? It’s because the very act of being away from home makes things so much more potent to you. When you’re traveling, being in the unfamiliar automatically makes you more sensitive to everything that happens around you, things that may have passed you by at home.
This is especially true as a student. Your mind is already in a stage of hungrily taking in information, processing it, and internalizing it to become a part of you. What you learn in the classroom becomes a part of who you are- it shapes your political views and/or philosophical views. When you start tip-toeing into the world outside of your own, the same thing happens: you are learning, internalizing, and being moulded by these experiences.
Leaving Your Comfort Zone
To many, traveling to a new and unfamiliar place is a great step out of their comfort zone. So, while they are already out of that zone of comfort, taking a few more steps doesn't seem as scary as before. When you’re travelling you are more open to do things you would never do at home. Skinny dipping into the neighbour’s pool at home? No way. But when you’re abroad… there’s that element of ‘well, why not? I’m here, and I need to make the most out this experience.’ (Speaking from experience)
But this can apply to other situations that won’t leave you drenched and potentially in a bit of trouble too. From simple things like trying new foods you wouldn’t normally try to hiking a mountain for the first time. After you’ve taken the first step of actually travelling to a new place, you build a momentum of doing other things you’ve never done before.
Build Your Resumé
My last point is my most practical, if the above hasn’t convinced you yet. Studying abroad is great to have on a resumé. It helps you adapt to a new environment while still maintaining work. It teaches you new ways of learning, and maybe even new languages. Studying abroad shows employers that you take an initiative to learn, and can handle being in vastly different and potentially chaotic environments. In addition, you can expand your network by studying abroad, so there is the potential possibilities for future opportunities in that country.
There’s no telling where life will take you sometimes. But there are ways you can steer the direction, and travelling is definitely one of them. So take your life into your hands. Have a say in what kind of person you’re going to become, what kind of job you’re going to have, and what kind of people you’ll meet along the way. Travel.