Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Get outta town!
One of the most valuable experiences any college student can have is viewing the world from another human being’s vantage point.
Having had the opportunity to teach English in Finland between my second and third years of university as part of SWAP (Students Working Abroad Program), I can safely say that international travel is a life-altering experience.
Besides my stint in Finland, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to various points around the globe, including France, Switzerland, Spain, England, Scotland, Wales, Russia, Estonia, Sweden, the Caribbean, the U.S. and others.
The linguistic challenges alone are a wake-up call. Even with a high school concentration in French immersion tucked in my back pocket, I've been forced to rely, more than once, on frantic hand signals and the kindness of strangers.
The awakening continues with each new culture I encounter.
It’s hard to forget experiences like standing outside a museum in Vyborg, Russia, purchasing toilet paper BY THE SQUARE from a tiny, old grandmother with wrinkled hands and empty eyes.
Or squeezing into a crowded Barcelona-bound train filled with screaming soccer – excuse me – football fans.
Not to mention visiting cultures so ancient, you could cut the history with a knife.
From the poverty-stricken rural villages of the Dominican Republic to the affluent neighbourhoods of Swiss aristocrats, foreign travel reveals a world out of balance that causes us to question our own place and purpose within it.
Each voyage I’ve taken has altered my world view, convincing me that we are among the most blessed people in the world to live in this great nation of Canada.
As part of a global village, I feel we have an obligation to visit with our neighbours, and hopefully become better equipped communicators, professionals and human beings in the process.
So, my advice to any college grad in limbo is simply this: get outta town!
It might just be the best decision you’ve ever made.