Thought Catalog

What Traveling Before College Taught Me

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Jeff Hopper

Not everyone can travel. You need time, resources, and most of all, you need to enjoy experiencing the world in all of its vast glory. As someone who spent most of her life abroad, I have been fortunate enough to travel to more than ten countries before starting university, and that affected the way I looked at higher education and what it stands for in a way nothing else did. So what exactly do you learn through a global lens that you can’t in a classroom?

1. The world is much, much larger than you can ever imagine.

This might seem like an obvious fact (of course the world is large, there are billions of us in it, after all), but when you’re sitting in a country like India where having an extraordinary work ethic and excellent grades is the norm, your place in that huge existence starts to look a lot smaller than it used to. Perspective is an amazing thing, and when you realize that you are literally just one out of billions, you tend to work that much harder in college trying to not be so, well, tiny.

2. Global diversity leads to global opportunity.

One of the most beautiful things about observing how things are done in different cultures is that you gain an idea of what initiatives will and will not work in those environments. When you see this before getting a degree, your approach to your studies will have an added eye for applicability, which will help you get the most out of your education.

3. Any educational resource should be appreciated to no end.

I think it was after visiting Kenya that this really sank in. When you see kids who are bright, lively, have a love for learning, but don’t have the resources to further their educations, something inside you changes, and you think to yourself: “I am just so incredibly lucky.” You start looking at your access to education as an invaluable gift, and approach it as such.

4. Real life doesn’t revolve around one subject – diversify.

In the age of specialization, some of you might be thinking this is the absolute worst thing that an ambitious person could do, but the more you pigeon hole yourself into one academic subject, the less flexibility you will have if you ever decide to work abroad. People in the East, for example, are often great marketers, managers, innovators, and traders all in one. To compete, you will have to be ready to be good at many things, and not just fixate on excelling at one.

Now, am I saying that people who don’t travel in their teens and pre-college years aren’t successful students? Of course not. In fact, I know many people who were stars in college that never left their home state, let alone ventured outside of the US. What I am saying is that seeing different cultures and gaining a broader world experience changes your outlook on life, and that can really impact the way you approach your education and how you choose to apply what you learn in the long run. TC mark

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Cut yourself some slack. One of the biggest regrets most people have about their 20s is that they didn’t enjoy them more. And I’m not talking about “buy more expensive dinners, take another trip to Thailand” type of enjoyment. I mean having the ability to take a deep breath and sip coffee in the morning knowing that you have done, and are doing, your best.

“These essays are slowly changing my life, as the title promises. As my friends’ birthday come along, they will all be receiving a copy of this wonderful book.” – Janie

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