Justin Filiaggi, Graduate Student
As a mental health counseling graduate student here at Immaculata, I have learned much about the intricacies of ethical decision making, diversity, psychopathology, career development and their relation to one another. I have also gained rich experience from discussions with both professors and students alike in my program. Yet, for me personally, I have gained some of my greatest insights outside the classroom.
While academics is both a necessary and valuable means to our selected fields of study, there is one aspect of my life that has been a game changer for me as both a student and young professional – traveling.
I have made it a priority to temporarily move myself to a new space once at least every six months for the past four years. A study abroad trip to Ireland in 2012 got me hooked; at the time I was a creative writing major at James Madison University. That trip was my first taste of international diversity on my own and it gave me the tools and confidence to continue travelling both with others and by myself.
The benefits I see in travelling are both vast and life lasting. A friend of mine likes to describe it in a quote, “Travelling is the only thing you spend money on that makes you richer.” For starters, there are very affordable ways to travel such as booking months in advance, being flexible with dates and using Airbnb, hostels and coach surfing as a cheap and free means of accommodation. So travelling may not be as expensive as we think. While this may be true, how does it exactly “make us richer?”
Obviously the way I am using the word richer is not in a monetary sense, but more so in a sense of self-fulfillment and self-development. The experiences you gain from being immersed in a different culture have the intangible ability to make you a more complete person through diversity exposure, which allows us to compare our own ideals and values with others. We may implement what we like about other cultures into our own lives, and we may also lose things from our current life that we now see in a new light.
Another culture may also support our current ideas, skills or dreams. If I was never exposed to the great writers of Irish history first hand, I may not be writing this here today. If I had never made that Argentinian friend in France, I would have no idea what mate was and would have missed out on the rejuvenating and nourishing properties it provides me with. These are just a few examples, and for every different country I have visited I try to keep a log of different life lessons or impactful moments I had while I was there. I am a firm believer that not only people, but also each new place we encounter has the potential to teach us something new.
The beauty of our country is that you do not have to take a plane to South America to have these experiences. We are so diverse here that a quick trip to your capital city or a bordering state can provide you with different mindset and attitude altogether. Not to mention the pockets of immigrants that come from around the world are all around us. One need only to perform a quick google search to experience the magic of Vietnamese cuisine. These snapshot experiences of a culture are not the same thing as fully immersing yourself, but they are the next best thing.
Another very fascinating and beneficial part of travelling is the sense of freedom and newness one experiences when in a new location. Being exposed to a new landscape or cityscape for days on end is a very stark contrast to travelling the same road to work everyday. This sense of newness may be a difficult feeling to grasp, especially if we see it as taking a step outside our comfort zone, but then again, outside our comfort zone is where real self-discovery takes place.
Being slightly uncomfortable gives us the opportunity to complete goals or tasks we never thought possible. It may also give us the opportunity to perform at our peak level. Travelling affords us the opportunity to perform in this manner because we are taken out of our comfortable, predictable setting and brought somewhere fresh.
A lot of times it is hard to step back and evaluate our life circumstances when were knee deep in school, work and relationships. However, once we literally bring ourselves out of that space, we gain the ability to see it more clearly. Sometimes it takes separating ourselves from a situation or place, whether briefly or altogether, in order to find real liberation and insight.
The final point I want to share is probably the most obvious and the most sought after. Learning about, seeing and experiencing new cultures through travelling is just downright fun. There is nothing like hiking up a mountain halfway around the world or connecting with a complete stranger like they were your long lost soul mate. The ability to keep those connections you make along the way is always a possibility and yet another incredible benefit to travelling.
Other parts of travelling that can not be overlooked are the foods, art and transportation different cultures provide. Many people in Istanbul take a beautiful twenty-minute ferry ride across the Bosphorus strait everyday to work, but for the tourist or adventurer this is just one more incredible feature that only that culture can provide.
If you have any interest in studying abroad, Immaculate has a wealth of resources available in the study abroad office next to the IU bookstore. Not only will you gain credits, but you can show a future employer you have an incredible experience under your belt and a story or two to tell when you get back.