It has only been a short time since I have been back home in the US (nine days to be exact), but in that short amount of time I have been able to appreciate my experience more than I could have imagined while abroad. “Hindsight is 20/20,” that’s what people always say when describing something similar to thinking of all the experiences you should or would have made happen, or how you could have better capitalize on an opportunity, like how I have felt while being home. Since being back in the US, I have managed to conjure up in my mind so many ways in which I could have elevated my experience, how I could have gone more places, seen more things, talked to more people, but in the midst of this I stopped myself. I remembered that I made a goal for myself to be IN THE MOMENT. I promised myself I would engage in each moment authentically, without judging how I chose to exist in each of those moments. This was my experience and I took hold of that and made the most out of it for ME, and for that I am grateful.
Now that I am back, there are various aspects of my life that I’ve had to reconsider. One that comes up in particular, is the way in which I do not utilize public transportation! This may seem like a trivial observation to make, however when you’re on transit for at least two hours a day, everyday, you definitely consider such things. Tacoma’s public transportation has leaps and bounds to make before it can even come close to that which was present in the cities of the Netherlands where I visited, however this does not mean I should not take advantage of the services, even if they are very limited in comparison, that are available to me. Taking public transportation is so much more than just inviting the frustration of added time to your day, or the loss of convenience that driving gives, but it is a manifestation of a desire that I feel we should all consider having which is taking care of this beautiful planet! When we show concern for our planet, we inevitably show the same concern for all of its inhabitants. One thing that the study abroad program has shown me is that to arrive at a state of progressiveness and tolerance like that which is present in the Netherlands, you have to first start by looking within yourself. You have to first consider how your individual life, actions, and behaviors impact those around you and furthermore how you can limit or get rid of entirely any behaviors that negatively impact those around you, whether that be in the way you treat others or the earth; you must be selfless and look at the bigger picture! I feel that the reason why the city of Amsterdam in particular thrives in terms of equality and equity is because people have been able to do just this, put the benefit of society first! This is apparent in how the locals conduct themselves and manifests itself on an even larger scale within the federal systems. What I can say I enjoyed most about this study abroad is the hope I received from experiencing first hand a system that operates to provide for all people, regardless of ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic states, or gender/sexuality expression, and works. And if it’s possible there, who’s to say that with the right resources and support, it can’t be possible everywhere.
In my opinion, this is why a study abroad experience is so valuable. It allows innovators just like myself and all of you reading this to take a combination of what you know and what you learn while being abroad and use this well-rounded understanding of the world to make your community, state, or even federal government (and the institutions which exist within these entities) as efficient as possible for all those who are impacted by them. It is our duty as academics to challenge ourselves, move outside of our comfort zones, and take the opportunities given to experience the HUGE world around us so that we may influence the future of those who come after us. So with that being said, if you’re thinking of studying abroad and you feel unsure, or you’re nervous, or lacking in your ability to make the best experience possible for yourself, dont. Be bold, be brave, be a scholar. At the end of the day, that’s what this whole “college thing” is really all about. Wishing all of you wonderful, impactful future travels! Thanks for reading!