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Opinion

Experiencing Europe well worth the cost, anxieties

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April 20, 2012

Vienna was the last stop in the International Traveling Classroom. While I wasn’t able to see too much of the city due to a massive amount of homework for one of our classes, what I have seen has been oddly reminiscent of the Twin Cities where I grew up.

There’s a little more wide open space and definitely some older buildings, but it’s hard to even remember I’m in Europe when I’m in Vienna. It’s kind of a nice way to wrap up the trip and I guess a perfect time to wrap up this column.

I’ve learned a lot in Europe. I’ve been forced to put a lot of things about the world and myself in perspective. I’ve gained a new appreciation for other countries, other ways of life and viewpoints.

The classes I’ve taken while I’m over here have reinvigorated my lust for learning and reignited my drive to finish school and finish strong. I’ve even switched my minor to international studies because of how much I enjoyed everything I’ve learned over here.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is that if you’re even slightly considering going abroad, you’ve just got to do it. You won’t regret it. You will meet new people, specifically people that you’d never have thought you’d get along with.

You will learn stuff from them. You’ll probably even make some friends, some of which will be lifelong ones. You’ll pick up a bit of another language, even if you’re doing what I did and traveled through a bunch of countries. If you plant yourself in one country for the entire semester, you’re sure to learn more of the language than you’d ever expect.

Yes, it’s a financial burden. There are very few of us who could afford to pay for something like this out of pocket, even with the financial support of our families, but for once, I want to actually encourage people to bite the bullet and take out the loans.

I’ve resigned to the fact that I’ll be paying off student loans for my entire life, thanks to this trip and the fact that everything I’ve ever been interested in or good at has about as much chance of making me any sort of money as I have of winning the lottery.

There are scholarships and the people at Global Connections will help you find a viable way to get yourself wherever you want to go.

Even if you’ve never given thought to leaving the country, you’ve got to look into it. You will get pushed out of your comfort zone and that’s not a bad thing.

I’ve spent more than a few hundred words in these columns talking about new experiences and comfort zones and the need to step out of them and if I’m getting repetitive it’s because I really believe in the value of this stuff.

All of the things I learned out of books, lectures and tours on the trip are valuable, but they don’t hold a candle to the insights I’ve gained from trying new things, be it of my own volition or just being forced to.

I’ve jumped in Lochness. I hiked a snowy mountain while watching avalanches in the distance. I’ve tried all sorts of awesome and weird food and drinks. I’ve been put in all sorts of social situations that I would have never expected and even though not all of them turned out how I would have liked them to, I’ve learned something from every one of them.

Studying abroad is one of the most valuable experiences we are offered in school. I beg you, if there’s any way you can make it happen, you’ve got to. Not to mention, it’s incredibly fun. I’m serious. Every day has been a blast and I wouldn’t have traded any of the experiences I’ve had on this trip for anything I can think of.

I’d like to thank all of those who have followed this column week in and week out this semester. I hope you’ve found something interesting in it.

I hope it has encouraged you to give this all a shot. If it has, I wish you safe and happy travels and I hope you get to experience all sorts of new things and you have great stories to tell when you get home.

Chris Rohling is a journalism major with a passion for storytelling in almost every medium.