by Skye Donaldson
Traveling abroad can yield amazing experiences by exposing students to new cultures, places and foods, and by allowing students to discover, explore and experience life outside of the United States.
Many invaluable lessons are learned while figuring out how to survive in a new country.
Traveling abroad stories recall those times that were good or bad, fun or yawn inducing, memorable or forgettable.
But what happens when the traveler lands back stateside?
Gage Bolton: Remembering Old Comforts
For Gage Bolton, senior business management major from Oxford, Michigan, returning to the United States after a semester abroad with RC in 2016 first meant a trip to Taco Bell. Not only did he have a hankering for the chain restaurant, but he also craved to partake in something he had taken for granted, he said.
“Everything was so bland [in Europe]. If you wanted spice, you did not get it. You could get the hottest thing on the menu and it’d be like a medium here,” he said. His respect for Mexican food went up a fair amount while he was overseas, Bolton said. But his respect for other things increased as well.
“We had all these restrictions. I had more freedom here than I did in Europe.” On the trip, the travelers were restricted to curfews, given rules for exploring, and prohibited from alcohol even if they were 21. Bolton emphasized the freedom he felt when returning home. He had the ability to go out with friends, drive to McDonald’s, or even just have a friendly conversation without a language barrier.
Overall, Bolton loves his “U. S. of A.” “I appreciate Europe for what it is, but this is where I grew up. My life is here.”
Alyssa Yakey: Growth Through Experience
Another student traveling with the RC study abroad group last year was senior Alyssa Yakey, a mass communication-public relations major from Fraser, Michigan.
“Post-trip depression is real,” she said.
Yakey said she started to crave the familiarity and the atmosphere she had with family and friends about halfway through her time abroad. But that feeling soon passed.
“I fell in love with Europe, became best friends with my roommates and accustomed to life in Vienna,” Yakey said.
The only obstacle that was a nuisance in her time abroad was the language barrier. But the language barrier, oddly enough, was something that was appreciated in the long run. Yakey stepped out of her comfort zone, learning and developing skills she never thought she would have.
Studying abroad gave Yakey confidence but also opened up her career perspectives. “Since being back, I've set new goals for myself and realized I'd like to obtain a job that allows me to travel, whether it's across the U.S. or back in Europe,” she said.
Yakey said she never noticed how many places a person never sees or how many paths someone would miss out on crossing by staying in one area. Yakey loves Michigan, but she doesn’t want to settle down here for a long while.
John Hogan: The Love of Home
John Hogan, a junior majoring in Christian ministry, was beyond ready to come back home after his 2016 GEO experience.
“Everyone has different experiences, everybody takes something different from it. When it was time to come home was I ready? Yes. Was I ready to come home before that? Absolutely,” Hogan said.
When the study abroad has been accomplished and done well, it’s nice to come back home and get back to the norm, Hogan said.
After his experience in Europe, Hogan feels more dedicated to what happens here. A person can say that he would like to pick up and just find another place to live, but it is difficult to actually put that plan into motion.
“You can try to go live somewhere else, and then you actually try it and it turns out it’s not what you wanted at all,” Hogan said. That is what Hogan’s trip resembled. Though he wasn’t living in Europe for long, when Hogan returned he was more determined to enjoy what was right in front of him.
“The American experience is unique, and it’s something to be treasured. That’s an important lesson to be learned,” he said. Hogan describes himself as a creature of community and a community that Hogan finds familiar and inherently good is that of the United States.
While traveling abroad definitely creates new ideas and introduces new places, as these students suggest, a traveler’s native country will always be home.
In the spring semester, RC’s Global Educational Opportunities program ships out to Europe and starts their studies in curriculum and culture. Dr. Keith Huey, associate professor of religion, directs the program. RC has study abroad programs in Vienna, Austria; London, England; and Uganda. For more information, go to http://www.rc.edu/academics/studyabroad/