This is it, my final semester at Macalester. While I enjoyed my time here and have many fond memories (mostly at Kagin), I would say that some of my best college times were from when I was abroad (on CET’s intensive Arabic Language and Cultural Studies in Irbid, Jordan [and as a campus ambassador for CET, I recommend you look into their various programs… they’re pretty legit]).
I recently read an opinion piece in The Mac Weekly entitled “Facing pressure to study away.” The article implored Macalester students to make their own decision about study abroad without giving in to social pressures. I agree that study abroad isn’t for everyone, and there are people who can’t fit it into their schedules because their departments are reluctant to count credit from abroad towards their major (heyo, Econ). But, I don’t think the pressure to study abroad is all that bad.
When I first came to Macalester my international experience had consisted of one Montreal Expos (RIP) game and a week-long high school trip to France where we skipped the Louvre to buy cheap beer at a grocery store (drink responsibly). In college it would have been easy to stay in my comfort zone (eat, sleep, Kagin) and not go abroad, but I felt pressure.
Here I was at Macalester, a school where 3 out of 5 students study abroad (credit to mac.edu), and where financial aid can be applied to study abroad. My sister had studied abroad for a full year, and my mother (<3) asked me several times over the course of my first couple years at Macalester where (not if) I was going to study abroad. Eventually I succumbed to the pressure. I flip-flopped on which program I would attend before finally settling on CET in Jordan (it was Arab Spring and at first I wanted to go to Egypt, but then they rebelled, and then I wanted to go to Syria, but then they rebelled and the Syria program got moved to Jordan, so I went there).
I was very nervous as I traveled to Jordan. The Air France flight attendants spoke to me in French, and my years of high school French were not enough (but they did serve complimentary champagne [step it up, Southwest]). Then, as I was waiting in the French airport for my flight to Jordan, they started doing an announcement in Arabic and I was like, “oh, shit,” because I didn’t understand a single word (despite three semesters of study at Macalester [Macalester Arabic is dope though. There were other students on my program who had taken three semesters at different colleges and they were just as bad as me]). So there I was—surrounded by Arabs chatting in what might as well have been Chinese—about to go to Jordan and pledge to only speak a language I didn’t know for an entire semester.
There’s much too much to write in this article, but besides a few hardships (electrical fires, heating problems, snow, rain turning streets into rivers, a taxi driver trying to cheat us out of like two dinar, weddings, etc.), study abroad was pretty dope. Looking back, I can’t believe I ever considered not doing it.
I guess what I’m eloquently getting at is that if you can fit study abroad into your schedule, then you should go for it. Take it from a Macalester senior who has over 25 Twitter followers: whether you go to some cushy place like Scotland or Australia or Amman, or you go and build some character in the real world in a place like Irbid, Jordan, you will learn more about the world than any internationalism-requirement-fulfilling Macalester class can teach. And best of all, Kagin will still be waiting for you when you get back.