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Opinion

Student administers pre-study abroad advice

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March 26, 2008

By the time you read this I will be in Berlin.

As an international studies major I’ve put off going abroad about as long as I could. Actually, since I’m graduating in May, this is really as long as I could put it off. I’ve been busily packing my oversized backpack and dealing with the necessary agencies to ensure that my journey will be as enjoyable, safe and economical as possible.

People often ask me how I am enjoying my last semester of college and my usual response has something to do with going to Europe.

I’ve been involved in a number of different things while I’ve been in River Falls, but nothing has started more conversations than my forthcoming trip to Europe. Being that I’m someone who’s been in college longer than most of you’ve had your drivers licenses, I believe that I have somewhat of a duty to share with you some of my experiences leading up to traveling abroad.

The first and most important part of traveling abroad is actually going abroad.

From what I hear, people in Europe are either the nicest people in the world or a continent full of America-hating jerks.

Erring on the side of caution, I will assume that everyone in Europe is much like the Van Trap family from “Sound of Music.”

There is no reason to be afraid of going abroad. People in Wisconsin are thrilled to hear my plans about Europe. Therefore, I can only imagine that a single Wisconsin person will be the toast of the town in Europe or in any other foreign country one chooses to go to.

The second thing I learned about planning my trip to Europe is not making any plans. Most of what can be experienced in any country can be read about in a book or watched for free on television. Books and free television are much cheaper than a trip to another country.

The key is to experience another culture. For a few days I will wander the streets of London looking for things to do. I’ve read a million guides on London and saw 49 hours worth of travel documentaries about the city. Rather than make any plans to do anything, I’ll let my feet decide where I’ll go.

Luckily, I’ve made a conscious effort to walk a little bit more. A couple months ago my feet would guide me to a bench. While I don’t doubt that London has nice benches, I don’t think it’d be quite the same experience.

No matter what you have planned or how detailed your plans might be there is no way you will see or do everything you want to while you are gone. Save yourself the disappointment of missing something you had your heart set on and just see as much as you can without making plans. It’s almost a guarantee that whatever you see on your trip will be a memorable, lifelong experience.

The most important thing I’ve been told about a study abroad experience is it is totally unique. I hope to see European history and politics in action while I’m gone. It’s been established that I am a nerd for that stuff, so my expectations are probably different from what yours will be.

Go abroad, see the world.The world has a lot to offer if you can just get out of River Falls—the best advice ever.

Joe will be graduating this May. He has been involved in several activities on campus, including last year’s Student Senate President.

Joe Eggers is a fifth year senior from Appleton, Wis. He is a political science and international studies major. He has been involved in several activities on campus, including a stint as last year's Student Senate president.