Studying abroad teaches outside classroom

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    I saw a recent advertisement that said, “TCU: Ahead of the Curve. One in Three Study Abroad.”

    I was astounded. A third of our student body studies abroad?

    But then I stepped back and considered it – we’re a pretty financially well-off student body, so we’ve got the resources to travel.

    TCU offers many affiliated programs all over the world (most notably and most popularly the TCU London program), and what the university lacks in affiliated options it makes up for in options from the Institute for the International Education of Students and the Council on International Education Exchange, its partner study abroad providers.

    I know people who have gone to places from South Africa to New Zealand and received class credit for it. And in some IES and CIEE programs, the price is right.

    I studied in Alcala de Henares, Spain, last fall and my entire trip – books, tuition, flight, travel expenses from my jaunts around Europe and general living expenses – was $2,000 cheaper than a semester at TCU. The Center for International Studies let me apply my scholarship to my CIEE program, which was amazing.

    And the experience is something I wouldn’t trade for all of the money in the world – or at least I’d have to consider it for a second, which is saying something.

    I not only met incredible people from places from Romania to Wisconsin, but also developed friendships that will last a lifetime.

    I became fluent in Spanish – I even wrote essays about the European Union’s fiscal policy in Spanish.

    I challenged who I was and I learned an incredible amount about myself.

    I learned that I can survive being uprooted from my own country, thrown into a group of people I’ve never met before and assigned to live for five months with a 65-year-old woman whose knowledge of the English language stops at “Yes.”

    I learned my friends can be young or old (my 65-year-old host mom became one of my closest friends).

    I learned that we, as Americans, live in a bubble that is hard to break out of. We know very little about anyone or anything else, and we are a hurried, impersonal crowd.

    I also learned that we, as Americans, are an efficient and (usually) respected people in the eyes of Spaniards.

    I learned to live in a tiny apartment with no heating or air conditioning.

    I learned to wake up every morning and light a match to start the water heater.

    I learned to wash my hair and body, shave my legs and wash my face in five minutes flat – before the hot water ran out.

    I learned how short American history is in comparison to Europe’s long, drawn out story.

    I learned what absinthe was and why it should be avoided.

    I learned that I am spoiled living in America.

    I learned that I can live without a lot of the luxuries I enjoy here.

    But mostly, I learned to love my country, in spite of its shortcomings and differences from the beautiful and exotic Spain.

    Go study abroad. The lessons and fun are infinite, but your opportunities to do so are finite.