Global exposure is valuable

By Stefan Ivanovski

Contributing Writer

Deciding to study abroad is an exciting and a thrilling experience, but it is neither easy nor straightforward. Last year, in my junior year, I studied abroad in Argentina and Spain. As an international student from the Republic of Macedonia already studying abroad at the University, it did not make sense to some of my friends to go “abroad again.” Some would ask me: “Why do you want to study abroad? Aren’t you are already abroad?” and these people reasoned it was because I did not like the University.

Hardly the reason at all, it was difficult for me to decide to go “abroad again” since I felt that the University was my “home away from home”: I enjoyed myself, I was comfortable, surrounded by wonderful friends, yet I decided to study abroad, why? My reasoning behind this was the fact that I saw the University experience extend well beyond the campus boundaries and theses opportunities “beyond the bubble,” such as learning a new language, immersing oneself in a new culture and broadening of perspectives, were too tempting to resist. Thanks to the support of the University community and alumni, I was able to study abroad and met my goal of becoming fluent in Spanish. In addition, my academic and living experiences abroad have inspired me to write an honors thesis and knowing that I have friends and “new families” to go back to in Argentina and Spain is all the more rewarding and an inspiring part of the whole experience.

Cultural immersion is never an easy endeavor, yet it may prove very rewarding. An American traveler that I met in Argentina told me, “living abroad one year is like living five years at home.” When I asked him why, he responded that “at home, everything remains the same. When you are abroad, you are constantly challenged.” So, cultural immersion is a constant struggle and it is an open-ended, never-ending process. There always remains an unexplored area, always more room for growth, improvement and knowledge, which may incite a never-quenching thirst and addiction-like desire to keep going, to keep exploring and learning more about other cultures, and thus about yourself, all with the aim of making greater sense of the world we live in today. The more you travel, experience and learn, the more you will see that across the globe we, human beings, have a lot more in common than we think. In light of the current global challenges ahead of us (e.g. economic and financial crisis, climate change), I hope that this open mindedness to crosscultural knowledge, experience and wisdom can help us devise creating solutions to the global challenges ahead of us, remaking the world to bring about the rise of truly universal sense of humanity, tolerance and understanding.

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