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Step Out of Your Comfort Zone: Studying Abroad

Bacharach, Germany, a small town

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.”

“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.”

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.