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Away We Go

News & Features | December 7, 2009

plane

Is there any greater sound then the chime of a bell followed by an announcement of “now boarding”? Many college students would say no, especially those of us at Tufts, where travel seems to constantly be on everyone’s mind. It’s no surprise that at a campus whose most popular major is International Relations, the majority of us want to go to far-off, exotic places; what better time to explore than when you’re young? Built up as the ultimate collegiate experience, studying abroad offers a distinct change in scenery, freedom, memories, and ultimately your favorite Facebook profile picture.

On the other hand, is taking a semester off really the best option for curing our wanderlust? What about the other options, like community service trips, taking classes in Talloires, or travelling for pleasure? This issue will explore the decisions our peers have faced and the reasoning behind the choices that were made. Before moving into specifics, consider the factors that come into play in deciding to venture forth into the wild blue yonder.

While it’s understandable to think of going abroad as an eye-opening break from the ordinary, there is a more serious side of the experience. From multinational corporations to international climate agreements, developing a global perspective is a cornerstone to success in everything from business to medicine. We can no longer understand a single issue without evaluating it across cultures and across nations. If we are to advance as a human race, we need to work together.

Known as internationalism, this ideal places prominently in a Tufts education; it is also captured in the idea of studying abroad. Spending an extended time travelling in another country does more than just increase language skills and familiarity with a particular city or town. We see ourselves as Americans and begin to realize, especially for those who have not ventured outside the country, that we are only a small part of a large world. We begin to visualize how interactions work on an international scale on an economic, diplomatic, and cultural level. Furthermore, we see that other countries have very different views of Americans than we have of ourselves.

Sooner or later, China will eclipse the United States in economic power. Developing countries like India and Brazil will take the stage as world powers and bump elbows with the developed world. Climate change will require leadership from countries all over the globe, not only America. No matter what we’re studying and where our future interests lie, we will all need to develop an understanding of this global context— foreign language exposure, culture exposure, and ultimately travel all accomplish this goal. As once distinctly American industries and careers move overseas and foreign language proficiency becomes a valuable asset, does studying abroad have more far-reaching advantages? In a few decades, will it be insufficient to just speak English? Will the United States be replaced, as have all dominant powers in the past, by a rising challenger?

Considering the other side to all of this, there is certainly something to be said for staying in Medford. The extra Tufts semester gained by staying on campus can be put to use taking classes we wouldn’t have had the chance to take otherwise. There would be no worries about credits transferring, finishing out that minor, or all the extra-curricular opportunities that are forgotten as soon as we cross the US border.

There are plenty of ways to see the world without taking a semester to study in another country. Many Tufts students choose to travel strictly for pleasure, or to go abroad entirely separately from Tufts to study for themselves. Not to mention the opportunities to explore that are right in front of us— Boston offers up cultural learning opportunities, and there’s definitely something to be said for hopping on a train, bus, or bike to see our community in a new light.

As many of us prepare to study abroad, we must consider the added value of an off-campus semester to our academic careers, personal growth, and overall enjoyment of the college experience. Looking into all our options and finding other ways to escape Medford to explore a rapidly changing, increasingly interconnected world is crucial to determining how we really want to broaden our world view. O