Brittany Papa: Why students should study abroad

by rcnewsblog on February 4, 2013

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Brittany Papa, a senior at Roanoke College, studied abroad in Cyprus last spring. She shares her experiences and the lessons she learned.

I don’t really know where to start. Ever since I have been back from Cyprus, and people ask me about my trip, I end with the same advice – Everyone should study abroad.

The adventure is just spectacular and mind blowing. I went to Cyprus not knowing anyone or much of anything about the country. I knew I would learn everything once I got there and that’s exactly what happened. I found that people are so into their culture and love to tell you about their history. It is much different overseas in too many ways to explain. One difference is the way that people treat you. They were so welcoming and safe.

I learned to take risks (safe risks) on my adventures, and I learned so much about myself. It was the first time I lived in an apartment without my family. I had to cook, clean, be responsible for things I never had to do at home or in the dorm. I felt I grew up very fast because I had to, but this isn’t a bad thing. I feel better off, better prepared and ready for the real world. A lot of kids stay close to home or on campus all their college years and don’t ever realize how a bathroom will get dirty if you don’t clean it or how to learn to actually buy food to cook and heat things up or buy fast food.

People who study abroad don’t realize how much down time they have. I didn’t. Schooling is much different in other countries, and it actually made me appreciate Roanoke College and the amazing education it offers. I’m not saying that Cyprus has a bad education because there are very intelligent teachers there. But the way of life in Cyprus is a lot slower and relaxed. Classes were once a week for three hours of just lecture. Personally, that’s not how I learn best, so it didn’t work well for me. But I realized that I wanted to explore more of Cyprus. We just walked. We walked everywhere!

One of the most important things I learned while studying abroad is that you cannot be afraid to get lost, take risks and wing it. We always found something new and learned something new. The best things happened to me when we didn’t have a plan.

One day we walked 12 miles all around, and an older gentleman invited us into his house for coffee and tea. Right away, our American instinct told us to put a guard up and be cautious because we learn it is not safe to do this in the states. There were a bunch of us so we went in, and he taught us all about the history of Cyprus and how life was when he was younger and showed us pictures of his family. It was something I’ll never forget. Things like that don’t happen if you stay home and never get out of your comfort zone. Not everyone in the world is a bad person and if you trust your gut instinct, it will take you places you have never been.

Cyprus has a three-week Easter vacation. My roomies and I planned a three-week backpacking trip to London, Ireland, Portugal, Pairs, Norway and Sweden. We bought our flights for cheap through Ryan Air. We learned real fast how to go to airports without our parents, how to figure out where we were and needed to be. Using maps to navigate was like second nature unlike at home when using Facebook was about all I knew how to do. We didn’t have Internet all the time, and we didn’t care! We were meeting new people, hearing their stories, going new places and doing things we never could do at home. We slept in hostels and couch surfed as we traveled all around. We learned how not to spend a ton of money and how to do research.

I feel like I can go to any train or subway or metro station and figure out what route I need to take like it’s nothing. Previously, I would look to my mom for help. When abroad, you don’t always have the security blanket that you’ve been used to. It forces you to figure out things and to grow.

I’ve probably written too much, but it is really hard to explain why I feel better off than my peers because of my study abroad experience. I just know that I feel better-rounded, more knowledgeable of what else is out there, more open to other cultures and how other countries work. Going over there was not easy and no one said it would be, but I did not want to come back. I would love to continue my journeys all around the world. I truly believe that everyone needs to get out and travel to places much different than their own.

Because our Wi-Fi rarely worked, and there wasn’t a Walmart right down the street, and I couldn’t flush my toilet paper down the toilet, I learned fast what was truly important and necessary in daily life.

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1 James Hargrove February 20, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Thanks for sharing your experiences Brittany. It sounds like you really got a lot out of study abroad and became a citizen of the world in the process!

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