Sam Adebesin is currently studying abroad in Costa Rica. The views expressed in this article are the views of the author.
Many people believe that the world is full of beautiful places and long to see them. But seeing other countries merely as vacation spots hurts one’s chances of having meaningful experiences. Students who want to break the illusion that other countries are just an escape or solely an adventure should consider studying abroad.
Studying abroad can seem like an exclusive club. I wasn’t aware of the image of the experience until I spoke with other people about it. There’s a perception that studying in another country is a luxury for rich, white liberal arts students, which can be alienating to those who want to do it. But whether that perception is accurate or not, it doesn’t have to be. People hear about the stories of someone jetting off to Paris or Florence for a semester and get excited. However, once they take a look at the prices, their hearts sink to their stomachs. They come to terms with the fact that they could never afford to go to such places.
Other times, people feel distressed by their restrictive course load. I felt that same sinking feeling multiple times as I searched for a place to study abroad. The right set of variables never seemed to fall into place, whether it was the wrong classes, atmosphere or financial logistics.
Then — Costa Rica.
I saw that I could go through an organization affiliated with my university, take the classes I needed there, and go on exciting excursions that screamed adventure. I tried to calm myself before I got too excited. I took a deep breath and clicked on the fees tab of the website I was browsing.
As I peeked through one open eye, I felt a wave of relief wash over me. I saw that I could travel to Costa Rica at a price that was comparable to that of my university. It had everything I needed. I could even take Spanish classes and be surrounded by the language, though no previous Spanish experience was required. That was how I learned how expansive abroad opportunities are if you put in the work to look.
Not everyone can study abroad for a multitude of reasons, but if you can, you definitely should. My experience so far has taught me that opportunities are more prevalent than people think. It’s important to at least explore the idea before writing it off.
I was thrown by the number of scholarships I discovered. It was a shock that so many organizations were willing to pay students to see more of the world. For all the benefits that one can reap, having access to additional scholarships is just icing on the cake.
Pursuing education in another country can be daunting but it can also be extremely rewarding. You can immerse yourself in another culture and you don’t have to go to some Instagrammable location that strikes envy into the hearts of your friends. That isn’t what studying abroad is about. At least, hopefully.
You can see other perspectives, become more knowledgeable about the world at large, and examine how other people live their lives. Not only does this have the practical benefit of being a topic of discussion in a job interview (especially regarding language acquisition), but it also benefits the soul by seeking opportunities to meet new people with an entirely different origin story.
It’s becoming increasingly important to have a better understanding of the world around us, especially as other nations or even continents are made to seem less than others— less valuable, less civilized.
As visitors, students, and immigrants are made to feel unwelcome in countries including the United States, opportunities to interact with people from various cultural backgrounds is threatened. So those who can take advantage of this opportunity should take it into their hands to go out and explore the world. There’s a great deal to learn.