By Sunny Mok
The most frustrating thing about people who study abroad is that they romanticize another country’s culture and lifestyle. Most people come back bragging about how much they learned about other cultures. Others claim, while away, they made their best friends. They believe they have found the meaning of life discovering themselves while abroad. If you’re one of these people, you’re probably going to be miserable and suck for the rest of your life. If not, you rock.
Have you ever stopped to think about why life overseas was so much better than life in America? When you were in Europe, you had an awesome time because you were on a paid vacation. You spent however much money on an experience that was catered to you on a silver platter.
You probably had a nice place to stay, didn’t need to work a job, took one or two classes, and you traveled and partied all the time.
There were no worries. No worries about food, bills, medical problems, family problems or relationship problems at all for that matter. How can life be so tough overseas when there were almost no worries in the world?
You come back to America, complaining about how much better life was overseas, when in actuality some of these countries might be terrible to live in. Spain has an unemployment rate of 22.7 percent; Greece, 25.8 percent; Italy, 12.6 percent. Think about that for a second. Life probably sucks for a lot of these people living in these countries.
How can you claim that you learned so much about yourself and that country’s culture when you failed to realize that the people around you were not on your vacation? That these people are still working, dealing with the exact same problems you are probably dealing with (if not worse) at home? The fact that you did not realize this shows that you learned nothing about the world, and some would even say you ended up more selfish than ever.
In addition, you say that you made your best friends overseas. They’re probably all other students and not even locals, which makes them no different than your friends at home. How can you claim to have made the best friends of your life when you only talked to other people that spoke English? What did you truly learn from your friends? Nothing. Nothing at all. You probably all just sat in a circle and jerked each other off while taking selfies with the Eiffel Tower.
The worst part about this study abroad fad is that these travelers claim that they found themselves overseas. That they learned the true meaning of life.
This is absolute horseshit.
You did not find yourself overseas, nor did you find the meaning of your life. You’re simply procrastinating over your problems. Running away to another country will not fix the issues that plague you when you are at home. Running away from your problems in general will not help you. Going overseas will not solve that problem. You do not solve your problems by leaving them somewhere. You solve them by looking at them straight in the eye and addressing the issue. This is what makes you a better, stronger person.
The identity crisis that you are facing in your mid-20s and that urge for you to see and experience new things in the world are things everyone faces. Most people have no idea what they’re doing in life, and that’s 100 percent OK. Just do not mistake a lack of goals for a lack of identity, because you are who you are. You are made up of your successes, problems, emotions and everything in between. You already know yourself; you just have to figure out how to apply what you know and where to apply it.
Be honest with yourself when you think the states are such a miserable time. If you’re one of those people who thinks that the grass is always greener on the other side, sit down and reevaluate your priorities, and instead of running away from that grass, learn how to care for it. Learn how to water it. If you’re not one of these people, good for you. This doesn’t apply to you at all.
Sunny Mok studies economics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @sunnymok.