- Posted March 13, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Why study abroad? Ask Michelle Obama
My first experience studying abroad was when I was 17 years old back in 2006. I grew up in a rather conservative, sheltered town in Montana, and I felt that doing foreign exchange would help me to broaden my wordly perspectives. And it ended up doing just that. I first lived in southern Italy for 10 months, which was both the most challenging and most exhilirating part of my life. I learned an entire new language and relied on the kindness of my Italian friends who I met through my art school to help me do so. I tackled home sickness as well, but I grew in so many ways that it was all very worth the hardships. My second experience living and studying abroad was directly after my time in Italy when I was 18 years old. This time I was in Prague, the Czech Republic for 9 months. It was there I underwent a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course and received my certificate to teach English. Again, I was immersed in a new country that taught me even more about myself, and I was lucky to have met some Czech friends who further opened me up to their culture and way of viewing life. Now I am currently living in Norway, and have been for the last 11 months. I first came to finish up student teaching through my university's study abroad program for two months and to visit my distant realtives here. Now that I am graduated, I am working as an au pair before I seach out a teaching job so that I can get an even more in depth view Norwegian culture, all the while learning the language.
I believe that all three of my experiences studying and living abroad have been overwhelmingly beneficial to me as a person. I feel more connected to the world, though I have only lived in 4 countries. I am still in contact with most of the friends I have made in each nation, and I am so grateful for my time with them discovering different ways of viewing life, outside of my own American bubble.
I can only stress that it is so vital that Americans in general become more educated about the world around them. It's almost impossible for one to understand his/her own culture if he/she has never even stepped outside of it to view it from another angle. Furthermore, if more and more Americans become more interested in the world around them, a sense of connection will blossom between them and others of different backgrounds and cultures. This could never lead to anything worse than the current astate of affairs. If we begin to inspire American youth at a young age the importance of experiencing other countries, we are giving them tools to develop a larger understading of who they are and human beings in general.