“The destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
— Henry Miller
In all honesty, I live a blessed life.
After all, I attend a beautiful university, nestled on top of a hill in San Diego, always sunny. With the salty ocean air wafting through the towering palms and the California sun kissing my skin like an intimate lover, I saw no reason why I would or even should leave this town — let alone the countryside — for several months.
My narrow-mindedness and reluctance was further corroborated by the rigidity of a medical student’s coursework, much of which was not offered overseas. I could understand the appeal of the USD study abroad program, but to me it seemed either logistically impossible or incredibly complicated. I just couldn’t afford to hop on a plane and spend the semester abroad, frolicking in foreign streets and sampling local street food.
This stubbornness, however, was finally challenged this summer, when my family and I took a three-week trip to Italy and Greece. To describe it as a wonderful experience would be a gross understatement.
You can do a lot in three weeks; I went to summer camp for three weeks, finished a long book in three weeks, heck, I had a temp job for three weeks. But I came back from these pursuits relatively the same person. Maybe a little smarter or a little richer but my mentality? It remained intact.
Those three weeks in the Mediterranean changed me in a way that the aforementioned activities really couldn’t. I walked the limestone steps of Santorini and indulged in the orange and saccharine cakes of Greek grandmothers, just as I had marveled at Michelangelo’s David for hours and I had picked the arugula pressed between the slices of focaccia bread with herbs. It was then that I realized how alive the world was.
I saw my sunglasses of the world, and at that time I wanted nothing more than to see the color world. Being homesick is not an unusual phenomenon, but is there a term referring to the desire to be somewhere else? I believe the closest vernacular would be spirit of adventure.
Yes, I have a wanderlust, and it itch more intensely than the few unfortunate bug bites I had acquired during our stay in Florence. When I came back to the United States, I think I left a part of me in Europe, and I would like to come back for that, maybe one day.
That’s why, upon finding out about the USD intersessional opportunity to study abroad in Japan, I knew I’d be a fool to hesitate. A three-week course? An ideal length. Are you going to Japan? Well, I’ve never been to Asia before. A higher division, foundation course for a religious requirement that I haven’t yet completed? At that point, I was pretty much ready to buy a non-refundable ticket.
Traveling to a foreign country is, in itself, a blessing. Not only is it an opportunity to broaden one’s horizons, experience unfamiliar cultures, first lasting memories and feast on authentic cuisine, but it’s also a chance to develop as a young adult. For example, the process lifted me from my initial trepidation and facilitated real-world skills (ie being independent, well-organized, or meeting new people in strange situations). I want to deepen these skills; If I have the chance to act on this opportunity in Japan, I definitely plan to do so.
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