Step Out of Your Comfort Zone: Studying Abroad

Bacharach%2C+Germany%2C+a+small+town

Bacharach, Germany is a small town on the bank of the Rhine River, and has many buildings that depict traditional German architecture. Germany’s history of fragmentation and colonization helped create its unique and famous architecture that is widely recognized today. Photo credit: Aj Frankson

AJ Frankson

There are only so many things that you can do and experience where you live. Only so many people you can talk to. Only so many different variations of your day. Only so many times you can get drunk on a Wednesday with your friends before you start feeling like you’re stuck in a rut.

I felt stuck. I was lonely, bored and upset at where my life was going. Day in and day out I was living the same uneventful life, and I became sick of it. Next thing I knew, I was on my way to Europe to study abroad as part of Colorado State University’s International Media Studies program.

Nearly every day we were in a new place, meeting new people and eating new food. I learned things that I couldn’t have possibly learned in a classroom back at CSU.

“I think I’d just reached a place in my life where I felt so stagnant,” said Nate Day, a CSU journalism senior who was studying abroad as part of IMS. “I just needed to do something new and exciting. So I figured I’d fly myself halfway across the world and see what happened.”

And so we went; five countries, 14 cities, all in the span of three weeks. It was incredible.

CSU students on the IMS Europe
CSU students on the IMS Europe trip pose outside the Parliament building in London, England. From left to right: (top row) Elise Ritschard, Caroline Cutshall, Jenna Schuster, Lena Ham, Nate Day, Megan Hanner, Annie Cheng; (bottom row) Andy Firebaugh, AJ Frankson, Hsin Chen, Courtney Stedman. Photo credit: Aj Frankson

“There were just so many amazing things about it,” said Megan Hanner, another CSU journalism senior on the trip. “I loved learning how other countries do journalism and media. I loved learning about and experiencing the cultures and histories of these places.”

I never could have imagined having such amazing experiences. Nearly every day we were in a new place, meeting new people and eating new food. I learned things that I couldn’t have possibly learned in a classroom back at CSU.

“I learned to be more independent,” said Lena Ham, a CSU journalism senior. “Which is a good thing, and I wasn’t expecting to gain that skill on this trip. But having to figure out where to go, how to get there and how to interpret the language requires major independence it turns out.”

Navigate Left
Navigate Right
  • Big Ben is easily one of the most famous landmarks of Great Britain. Photo credit: Aj Frankson

  • Though there are many things that Great Britain is known for, one of the most famous icons are their redcoat soldiers. At the Tower of London, an old castle on the Thames river, these redcoats can be seen guarding the castle, graves and the crown jewels. Photo credit: Aj Frankson

  • The Louvre Museum in Paris, France, is one of the most popular and biggest art museum in the world. Right outside the museum, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel is one of the three famous arcs on the Triumphal Way in Paris. The arc was built to show respect for Napoleon after his military victories in the early 1800s. Photo credit: Aj Frankson

  • The Musee D’Orsay has two iconic clocks: One that can be seen inside the museum, and one that looks to the outside of the museum. The clock depicted is the one inside, and compared to the other clock, has a much more intricate and visually pleasing design. It is one of the first things you see when you walk into the museum. Photo credit: Aj Frankson

  • The Louvre Museum in Paris, France, has a plethora of incredible artwork, including the Galerie d’Apollon: An exhibit known for the high ceilings with intricate artwork and gold sculpting. This panel is just one of many in the gallery and was painted by students from the Second School of Fontainebleu in the 1660s, but wasn’t finished until the mid-late 1700s. Photo credit: Aj Frankson

  • The Musee D’Orsay, one of the famous museums in Paris, France, is unique because it is a re-purposed train station that was built in the late 19th century. It is now the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art in the world, and is incredibly popular among tourists and French natives alike. Photo credit: Aj Frankson

Navigate Left
Navigate Right

“I learned more about myself than I learned about anything remotely academic,” said Day. “I learned that I have a passion for traveling and new experiences and that I ought to have more confidence in myself because I survived some fairly questionable situations.”

Though the change of scenery and culture was incredible, one of the most eye-opening experiences was seeing the lives of other people from different walks of life. Growing up, we are conditioned to alienate anyone remotely different from us, and we often forget that despite our differences, we are all people in the end.

“It’s easy for us to be stuck in our own little worlds sometimes,” said Hanner. “Traveling can change that.”

Navigate Left
Navigate Right
  • Germany is known for many things, one of them being the plethora of Gothic-style churches that date back to the 1200s. Taken in Bacharach, Germany, this particularly colorful church depicts the trademark Gothic-style pointed arches on the windows. Photo credit: Aj Frankson

  • Bacharach, Germany is a small town on the bank of the Rhine River, and has many buildings that depict traditional German architecture. Germany’s history of fragmentation and colonization helped create its unique and famous architecture that is widely recognized today. Photo credit: Aj Frankson

  • The Rhine River in Germany is lined with hundreds of ancient living castles that have been passed down for hundreds of generations. The castles were built in the Middle Ages to protect families from intruders, and are strategically placed along the Rhine to make it easier for families to obtain goods. Photo credit: Aj Frankson

  • The Rhine river is one of the most famous rivers running through Germany, and is known for the massive vineyards that line the land beside it. Many ancient German villages still thrive and can be seen from the river. Photo credit: Aj Frankson

Navigate Left
Navigate Right
commercial canals in Belgium
The city of Bruges is the capital of the Flemish region of Belgium, and is known for its commercial canals and breathtaking cathedrals. One popular tourist attraction is taking boat tours of the canals, which can be as cheap as eight euros. Photo credit: Aj Fankson

While it is easy to dismiss people from other countries as “rude” or “hateful,” we have to remember that creating these stereotypes about different types of people is counterproductive and divisive.

“I think a lot of Americans have this idea that people from other countries hate us, but really they just want to have dialogue,” said Hanner. “I learned to not be afraid to travel and meet people.”

Studying abroad helped me see that despite all of our differences, despite what we look like or how we were raised, we are all people. There is only one race: Human. And it’s about time we treated each other like that.