The dream of travel is one held by many – young and old – but as we age, I believe our motivations behind our need to explore evolve into something deeper than the basic desire to see interesting things. The first time I traveled was during my senior year of high school. Inspired by my love of British television and accents, I decided to explore London and the English countryside, before concluding my trip in the beautiful city of Edinburgh, Scotland.
Despite positive travel experiences during my first trip abroad, it was surprisingly difficult for me to go abroad a second time. As a USM Honors Freshman, I was given the opportunity to apply for a class that involved an Icelandic excursion in June 2017. The course focused on the fishing industry, both in Maine and in Iceland. The focus on this industry was used to compare these very different – but also vastly similar – places, through the study of their natural environments and their tourist industries. The thought of studying abroad again was alluring, but it was my hesitation over the course material that almost caused me to miss out on one of my greatest college experiences. Now, in fall 2018, I am studying at the University of Aberdeen. I am abroad once again!
As an English major who is passionate about reading, writing, and the study of literature, I sometimes find myself neglecting opportunities to study in different areas, while opting to continue down a narrow educational pathway. While all students should focus on certain fields of study, college is a place to branch out and expand the reaches of our knowledge. Study abroad experiences are an important part of breaking out of our comfort zone. Had I not taken the chance, I would not have been able to discover more about the world around me and more about myself. It doesn’t matter if the subject matter directly relates to your major so long as there is something about the experience that relates to you. Going abroad and studying abroad changed me: my subject knowledge has broadened, I am more in tune with my natural and economic environments, and I made friends. I realize there is more to my experience than just accents and tourist-traps, lava-laden landscapes and geysers. I am discovering parts of myself that I had never before known existed, and that I had never before needed.
Understanding the world around us – such as different cultures, beliefs, and viewpoints – requires understanding the people around us. Understanding social and cultural differences is not only important in my personal life, but also in my studies. I believe taking the chance to learn more about the world through the eyes of others is helpful in any major or career.
If you are thinking of studying abroad, do it; if you have never thought of it, I’d urge you to explore, take risks, and expand your knowledge base. It is important to remember that no one is going to have the exact same study abroad experience as someone else. My personal connection with Scotland and the University of Aberdeen is directly affected by my personal experiences and my educational pathway as an English major. What I take away from this trip will most likely be vastly different from what my friends take away, who study Psychology and Chemical Engineering. Despite our differences, though, we have one thing in common--we all decided to change our lives through the experience of going abroad.