Four years ago today I left my study abroad program in Florence, Italy. My first time overseas was six weeks in Italy with a weekend in Ireland and another in England. Traveling abroad had intrigued me beforehand, but once I finally did it, I realized the truth to former study abroad students saying, "It's an amazing experience, and I can't really describe it...you just have to do it for yourself."
None of us were ready to leave our temporary European homes on our last day. The night prior, we had a dinner with our whole program.
At dinner as we were taking photos with everyone and having our last sips of wine, we made sure that whatever we were doing after graduation, we would attend the 50-year anniversary celebration in Florence. (I went back to work in Florence for six months after graduation, but unfortunately left a couple of months before the celebration. Very few actually ended up going to the reunion, though).
The dean gave a speech during our meal. He described the past few weeks as an "opalescent dream state."
It was so true. It went by extremely fast - and when I stepped foot back in Seattle, looking around my house through jet-lagged eyes, it was hard to believe it actually happened.
I unzipped my backpack and pulled out a smushed chocolate croissant from the secret bakery the night before.
That weird feeling of Was I really just in Italy less than 24 hours ago? was very present. I had a similar feeling my freshman year of college when I went home for the first time.
However, the croissant was proof that yes, I was halfway around the world a day ago. It actually happened. I did it! I went to Italy! After years of wanting to make it happen, I made it happen.
...Though while I thought the desire to travel would stop there, it definitely did not.
As cliche as it is, studying abroad changed me. My life away from home seemed so different from my life at home, and I knew I'd never approach anything the same way again.
"Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I shall be happily infected until the end of my life." - Michael Palin
Study abroad shaped my life, but my career path as well. If there are any students out there trying to convince their parents to let them go abroad, show them this: every job I've applied for since graduation was influenced by my studying abroad. Every employer for every job I've been offered since graduating college was thoroughly impressed by my international experience, setting me apart from the other candidates.
Without studying abroad, I have no idea where my life would be and for sure know I would never have had a chance at any of those career opportunities. I'm not saying I would not have had career options, but traveling abroad heavily increased my odds at getting jobs where I was lacking in age and "years" of experience.
I have been forever bit by the travel bug. Anyone who has tried to squash their wanderlust with traveling knows that traveling just makes it all the more worse.
The more you travel, the more you crack the surface of complicated intercultural communication.
The more you see, the more you realize that this planet is amazing and needs to be explored firsthand.
Are you aching to see the world? Go abroad. You should absolutely do it. Just know that you'll be forever bit by the travel bug, which is not a bad thing at all.