—Esther Chung and Shanyn Valentine, Co-Editors in Chief—
As students get older, many new opportunities, both inside and outside of school, present themselves. One of the most eye-opening of these experiences is traveling abroad. Regardless of whether or not an individual has been outside of the country before, stepping into a new culture can be an exciting, life-changing experience.
Señora Southall, a veteran traveler and Cosby High School Spanish teacher, has been taking students to Spain for the past several years. Over the years, she’s witnessed amazing changes and benefits to studying abroad. She weighs in with her ideas on what studying abroad does for a student, the challenges and the experiences that come with it.
- Getting outside the comfort zone:
For many students, living in the Richmond area is a blessing. With well-established suburbs surrounding a forward-moving and culturally diverse urban center, life in the capital of Virginia is easygoing and accommodating. However, when everything seems all too comfortable, it may be just about time to step outside of that bubble and see the outside world.
- Ambassador for the USA:
When traveling abroad, students return home with an impression of the country that often determines whether or not they would like to return. But, what travelers often do not consider is this: they leave as much of an impression on the country as the country does on them. Southall says, “You become an ambassador for the United States, because you represent the United States and they will judge the United States on how you act.” For those in foreign countries, the impression one leaves is a representation of the traveler’s country as well. To counteract any negative stereotypes, it is key for anyone traveling abroad to be on their best behavior.
When travelers go abroad, they often must challenge themselves to “stretch” and adjust to life in the new country. Some examples of how student travelers have had to adjust, according to Southall, are cultural customs, roommates, language, and communication. Though the amount of effort required to get comfortable in a new country often depends on where the individual goes, there is no question that travelers can learn from the challenges and experiences they face, no matter how big or small.
- That moment of awe:
Though traveling abroad is most definitely not all rainbows and butterflies, the general consensus is that this is an invaluable experience that everyone should have at least once in their lifetime. Through the trip may have its ups and downs, what really matters in the end is what we get out of it. Not only will travel allow an individual to see and immerse themselves in a culture firsthand, but it will ultimately give them a chance to shape their own lives and realize how diverse this world really is.
Photos Courtesy of Shanyn Valentine