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How Traveling Enriched My Education, Prepared Me for My Future Career, and Made Me a Better Person
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How Traveling Enriched My Education, Prepared Me for My Future Career, and Made Me a Better Person

This past fall, I joined the less than 10 percent of college students who participate in a study abroad program. Contrary to what many people think, the experience was far more than just “taking a semester off to vacation.” Exposure to other countries has enriched my life and professional development. Exposing your teen to world travel can jump-start their career paths, as well as build empathy and a more expansive worldview.

My Real Education

Though I took classes at various international universities last semester, the real education came from the experiences I had as I traveled. Earlier in the fall, I spent six weeks living in Barcelona in the midst of the fiercely-debated Catalan independence vote. Rather than learning about the movement through news sources back in the United States, I experienced the campaign firsthand.

Through interviewing Catalans, speaking with professors, and (safely) attending protests and other major events, I grappled with my views on autonomy, different forms of nationalism, and split political identity. During a time of increasing ethnic nationalism across the globe, my international experiences taught me the danger of a single story and how to find commonalities across country lines. These are experiences that no classroom could have taught me. Traveling is a crucial part of having a well-rounded education in the 21st century, and the sooner your teen can enter into this international dialogue, the better.

Professional Experience

In addition to expanding my worldview, I also decided to travel abroad as a way to bolster my professional résumé (no, really!). As technology continues to connect the world in faster, more efficient ways, the workplace is rapidly becoming more global. More and more workspaces are remote, and a few years from now it may be commonplace to have a co-worker who lives on another continent.

Having international experience can be invaluable to employers, as it demonstrates the ability to work across time zones, embrace cultural differences, and learn how to communicate with people whose backgrounds differ from your own. In general, American students tend to lack global skill sets compared to their international peers. International experience can automatically set your teen’s résumé above the rest.

Building Empathy

Though I find myself constantly testing the limits of my comfort zone, experiencing a new country as an outsider has been deeply rewarding. I never quite appreciated how difficult it was to communicate to someone who doesn’t speak your language until I landed in Barcelona and struggled to order coffee (Cafe con leche por favor!). The difficulties of navigating a new country allowed me to build resilience and empathy for others.

Throughout my semester abroad, I found myself constantly reminded of Marcel Proust’s reflection that the “real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Traveling transforms the way we interact with the world, and encouraging your teen to experience another country may be one of the most valuable ways to enrich their personal and professional development.

Interested in exposing your teen to another culture during an immersive travel experience? Get a free Rustic Pathways program catalog today!

About the Author

Kennedy Petersen

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Kennedy has always loved traveling. Her professional background in publishing and photography have led her to discover the power in storytelling, and how it can facilitate a more empathetic understanding of the world around us. Currently studying English at UC Berkeley, Kennedy is thrilled to join Rustic's Creative Team this summer. During study breaks, she's usually found hiking, listening to podcasts, or training for her next half-marathon.