34 is the number of flights I’ve been on. 23 is the number of first cousins my husband has, a cultural difference in us that I love. 13 years ago I took my first flight ever, alone. 10 is the number of months I spent on my gap year volunteer program. 6 years ago I met my husband, on a bus, traveling abroad. 5 is the number of hours I spent out in a city on my last trip abroad, just because I had enough time between connecting flights. 3 is the number of years my brother spent in the Peace Corps because two just wasn’t enough (so he extended). 2 is the number of countries I have citizenship in. 1 is the number of best friends that I made on a flight.
When I try to think of everything that travel has given me, the answer is simple: everything. It’s hard to try to piece together all of the amazing moments I’ve experienced abroad; hiking in the desert, swimming under a waterfall, and wandering through the cobblestone streets of Yafo in Israel, strolling through the fog in London, shopping at street markets and strolling in the park near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, bumping into the ‘casseroles’ march in Quebec… each trip a new adventure, full of unexpected moments.
As travelers, we try to speak about our experiences. We try to make those who have never been abroad understand. We can’t make them understand what it really feels like, but maybe we can inspire them just enough—maybe if we can at least convey the value of, and importance of travel abroad and study abroad; if we can at least open their minds to the idea of how incredible it can be, we’re accomplishing something.
The truth is that if you don’t experience other countries and cultures, you’re missing out on your full potential as a person. Travel deepens you and your understanding of the world. You meet amazing people, with amazing stories. You find out things about yourself you never knew—strengths, weaknesses, fears, and talents.
If you’re thinking about study abroad, think no further. The answer is yes, go for it, no matter where you are in your academic career. Because it doesn’t matter! You can study abroad in high school, as an undergrad, or while pursuing your Masters. Through amazing companies like Moving Worlds you can even volunteer abroad well after you’ve graduated. And if you don’t want to stop working to go abroad, there are companies like Jobbatical, where you can have short-term employment anywhere in the world.
I arrived at the 2017 Travel Blogger Summit yesterday, with fellow bloggers, influencers, and companies passionate about Study Abroad and Global Citizenship; National Geographic; Virgin Airlines; HI USA; Partners of the Americas; The UN. We gathered in the rooms of the HI New York and shared our stories. We spoke about how to get people involved in study abroad programs and teach the importance of traveling abroad at an early age. The discussion will continue long after we leave.
Having so many like-minded individuals gathered in one space—to know that there are so many people and decision-makers out there who are passionate about Global Citizenship—is inspiring. On Saturday we will part ways, having exchanged contact info, business cards, and social media profiles. Having hashtagged and liked, followed and posted. We will go back into the world, forging ahead in our own personal journeys and international travel, and we will try to make a difference.
#StudyAbroadBecause you will discover layers of yourself that you never knew existed; because you will make friends that last a lifetime; because you will never be the same.