Growing up I have been incredibly blessed to have countless opportunities to travel. Since I was five weeks old my parents having been hauling me around the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Sure, I may have been a whiny unappreciative toddler at first, but they laid a foundation for me. In eighth grade, my youth minister at my Church began to start advertising the next trip the Church was planning on taking. Most of my peers couldn’t care less, as they would rather have gotten a new xbox than go anywhere, let alone another country. Immediately after the announcement at Church I hatched my devious and clever plan which I had convinced myself was a foolproof way to get my desired plane ticket to Europe. Unlike our typical rides home from church I was dead silent in the back seat reading up, and trying to think of a way to cleverly fool my parents into letting me go to Europe. My mother quickly noticed this once in a lifetime phenomenon and quickly asked me why I was so quiet. It was now or never. This was my chance.

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Much like Ralphie from A Christmas Story, I quickly blurted out every bit of information about the thing I wanted most, only instead of a Red Rider BB gun it was a $4,000 trip to Europe. As you can imagine this went over quite well, and I received quite the look from my parents after telling them my plans.

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After getting the infamous “we’ll see” answer from my father, I knew this trip was only just a dream. BUT WAIT. None other than Aunt Susie comes to the rescue at our family dinner the very next night. She eased the concerns of me being alone in another country for the first time, and seeing that I had offered to work my butt of to earn money for the trip, it was looking more like a strong possibility. After selling and spreading only God knows how many bags of mulch to raise money, a year and half later I was off across the ocean with Aunt Susie, and some of my best friends at the time. Fast forward another three years and I’m my second flight to a new destination I had been itching to see. You could say I have the travel bug, but I’m not sure that would quite to it justice. After seeing Italy, Greece, the Grecian Islands, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkey, parts of England, and Spain I have discerned one thing to be certain. Nothing opens your mind like traveling abroad.

This past Summer I studied abroad with the University of Tennessee. I took a six hour intensive Spanish course mainly in Santander, Spain. Not only did I get to experience a full immersion into a new culture, get six hours of -A credit to boost my GPA,  but I got the privilege of seeing my country in the eyes of another. Being the first time out of the country while I have been in college it was quite enlightening and interesting. The way the world sees our country is not always in the fondest of ways. It is important for us to realize this, especially those who are members of my generation. It is absolutely crucial that we realize what is going on around us both in our nation and outside of it. One of the most impressionable times in a human being’s life is arguably during their college careers. Take advantage of the opportunities presented to you in college that allow you to travel, and live outside of your westernized comfort zones. Nothing can compete with the experience of living in another country. Don’t ever be blind sided by other cultures, expand your perspective!

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