The following is a blog from a current intern, Charlie I., who is doing an International Business internship program in Barcelona.
The modern economies of many states today rely on tourism as cash cows in their portfolios. Globalization and technological innovation allow for the free-flow of human capital and ideas across cultural borders. Theorists suggest this will reduce the threat of violence and create gains from trade. Meanwhile, global unemployment and inequality continue to be problems. The internet has condensed the information contained in libraries into the pocket of every smartphone user. Social media has turned the foundations of personal relationship building and maintaining on its head. Many problems of the past will be easily solvable for institutions because of advancements in computing power, while it also has the power to render entire labor markets obsolete. This places compensating differentials on human talents. The 21st century brings along with it cultural wars, global warming, and economic fragility. The time to ponder the tough questions is now, and traveling allows it to happen freely. Nobody wants to live a life of delusion. That is why traveling can be a necessary disruption in the banality of knowing only one culture.
“What do you want to do in life?” is a common question college students face. A typical answer is, “Travel the world”. What does this mean? Going on a family vacation to Disneyworld is not the same thing as natural disaster relief work; yet, both are defined as travel. Knowing what you want to get out of a trip will help narrow down the available possibilities. For college students, options include studying abroad, backpacking, Woofing, Gap Years, work programs, internships, Teaching ESL, volunteering, and plenty more. A few months abroad will help students who know they like traveling to figure out what it is about traveling that they like. For people who don’t like to travel, spending time overseas can do one of two things: help solidify the pre-existing notion that getting out of the comfort zone is a nightmare or form new opinions about the possibilities of other cultures having things to enjoy.
Budgets will need to be made, saved for, and spent, but in the end, it’s better to die with experience than money. There are significant differences in what each program offers. Schooling abroad is a default choice, but actually doing homework and focusing on grades can be painstakingly strenuous. We would all like to spend our holiday lounging by the pool in a luxury hotel, but that’s easier said than paid for. It is important to consider learning valuable skills for strategic resume building(a new language). A job or volunteer position abroad can be an interesting stand-out item for the CV. Some people prefer a homestay, where life will be simplistic with home-cooked meals, compared to living in an apartment or shared flat where independence is abundant. Isolation and immersion can be beneficial for a variety of reasons. Introverts can learn to come out of their shell, and extroverts can learn to thrive in solitude. It would be foolish to not completely assess the risks as well. Talking directly with the people whose job it is to send students abroad will provide detailed questions and answers.
Graduation can be a slap-in-the-face realization for people. The pressure is on. It’s time to select a career and then maybe a spouse. It’s not a good time to have an emotional breakdown. Don’t avoid thinking hard about the core of your character, as it will affect the types of relationships, personal and professional, fostered throughout life. These things will undoubtedly impact life’s happiness like a meteor.
Living in a foreign country for at least three months allows a fresh kind of freedom to arise. The conscious boat will be rocked, so to speak. It is true that food, wine, books, adventure, relationships, and beaches are “the fruits of life”, and experiencing them in new ways can shape your life’s definition of success. A global network of associates never hurts anyone’s chances of success, either. Having a great, safe travel experience will depend on awareness and action. Going independently means that other people’s preferences will never be the trump card in deciding what happens. Focus is heightened. The consequences are real. It erases the controlling environment of home and forces unabridged intrapersonal and oft repressed realities into conscious clarity. The familiar people in life shape our thoughts, styles, sayings, preferences, and tangibly speaking, our brains. None of these familiar vectors will be present once the plane takes off, and that moment will be the freest you have ever felt.
– Charlie I.
Last updated on March 30, 2020. Original post from July 14, 2015.