My younger sister is a wise woman. She is self-assured, ambitious and resourceful. She knows what she wants and finds a way to achieve it. She had always been my wing woman on family trips abroad, whether it was encountering evolution firsthand in the Galapagos or watching the world flash by in a blur of neon color in Bangkok. I cannot ask for a better travel partner-in-crime.
As her older sister, I feel that I don’t often have the answers to tough life questions, but on the topic of study abroad I believe I have some knowledge, only because I have been there once before. This is not a bossy letter telling her “I told you so,” instead it’s merely a letter of encouragement. After all, I stopped influencing her since she was around seven.
Hey, do you remember that time that we were in the Peruvian Amazon at dawn to witness the most magnificent sunrise that lit up the sky with the softest blues and how our guide told us that in the rafters of our lookout post a cobra was currently residing? For the rest of the morning, I was on edge after that announcement (peering cautiously at the ceiling every few seconds), but you just calmly kept looking into your binoculars instead, focusing on the awakening landscape.
You always knew how to internalize the unfamiliar, feel at home in the foreign and see the bigger picture.
It’s hard to believe you are halfway done with college now. As cliché as it does sound, time really flies by. As you get ready for your final two years of undergrad study, I want to urge you to do one thing. Study abroad. Whether it’s for a semester or a year. Leaving your old life behind for a new home in a different country is terrifying, but it will be one of the most transformative moments of your college career.
It may seem like you are building your life back in Los Angeles, with a brand new apartment, but it will still be back there when you return. The opportunity to study abroad will quickly slip out of reach though.
But you might think, I’ve traveled abroad before. Why would I need to go for an entire semester, right?
It’s different because traveling in a country gives you only momentary exposure to a different culture. Studying abroad forces you to shift your idea of home and what that really means in the first place. Your world will expand indefinitely in the best ways possible. Of course, you will be uncomfortable and there will be days when you are so homesick it hurts, but you will make it out the other side, I promise you.
Also, it will do wonders for your future career.
Years later, when you are interviewing for your first real job, you can use your studying abroad experience and the accumulated cultural sensitively you have gained as a way to stand out from the other applicants. The world is becoming increasingly globalized and it’s critial to have citizens who are worldly and sensitive to intercultural relations no matter the profession.
And your friends back at home…
They will all be there still. I promise. Plus there is this software you might have heard of called Skype to keep in touch with everyone back at home. I’m a big fan. For all the college festivities you’ll miss, luckily they have some local version anywhere in the world you go. Have you ever been to a party with international students? Those are the best. (But don’t tell mom and dad I said that).
Your biggest supporter,