Once I learned a quote from Dr. Seuss: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places, you will go.” I did not understand what this old man was talking about. The only thing I know about him was his amazing story and artwork in The Cat in the Hat.
Study abroad has given me this opportunity to explore what Dr. Seuss’s message was trying to deliver. I have sat in classrooms and spend numerous hours on textbooks and homework to advance my knowledge. I also have the occasion to do some travelling between semesters. However, this study abroad experience was very different from the travelling I previously did.
I have met so many wonderful people all over the world from the study abroad experience. I have also visited many historical, breathtaking, and surreal attractions and cities. All the pictures I have seen in my textbooks, I finally had the opportunity to stand there and enjoyed the surroundings and ambiance that is described in books. One of the most valuable experiences and lessons I learned was to reflect on the reason I am studying tourism. I know it sounds cheesy. But this is what life is all about, isn’t it? Trying to define a reason or a purpose for something that we are passionate about.
Yes, I have lived in different places for six months where I did not understand a word that people are saying. Yes, people sometimes stare at me because I am not from their community or just because I am Asian. Yes, cultural differences sometimes can be challenges. Yes, it can get a bit hard to talk to someone who does not understand a word you are saying. Yes, I did not know we had two big grocery stores near where we live and I had to commute into the city center to buy food for one month. There are too many uncertain factors that would stop me personally from studying abroad.
GUESS WHAT! WE ONLY LIVE ONCE! Get out of the comfort zone and don’t be afraid. When I did not understand a word of what people were saying to me, I used my body language and smiled at them. It worked most of the time. Cultural differences, so what! I just embraced the differences and understood that every culture has its uniqueness. Talk to people, talk to friends, talk to strangers on trains, talk to other travellers who share the hostel with you, and talk to whomever you meet. We met many different people from this amazing experience. We shared and lived in many different hostels when we travelled together. We sat on different trains for countless hours. We partied in an igloo bar. We cooked a “family” dinner together almost everyday. Yes, family! Friends became close friends and family. We supported each other regardless whether in good or bad times. There is always a down time or a rough time for everyone. Friends are there to support and love us! I am sure we could not make it without all the wonderful people we met there.
I can sit here and tell you all the adventures I had. But you know what, it is my story. It is not yours! I know this sounds a bit harsh. Why don’t you go out and create your own story. We are still young and have time. Get out and travel abroad, study in different places for a while. When you come back, we can go and have a cup of coffee and you can tell me all your adventures!
Life is like a blank piece of paper. We can decide how colourful it’s going to be or leave it as it is. The world is like a book, a paintbrush, a teacher, a friend, and a community. Travel the world and read it like a book. Travel the world and paint your life with different adventures and colours. Travel the world and talk to different communities. You decide how your life picture will evolve.