Discovering the importance of international travel

Knowledge learned in the classroom cannot compare to knowledge gained by a first-person experience. College study abroad programs are an example of learning through experience. Traveling internationally is about the experience, the feeling of leaving your comfort zone, and facing the unknown—for the sake of discovering yourself and the world around you. As Travel Channel’s Anthony Bourdain says, “Don’t tell me what a man says, don’t tell me what a man knows, tell me where he’s traveled,” I am a strong believer that if a student has an opportunity to travel, it should be taken with no question. With an open mind, and a good pair of shoes, the world is yours.

Although traveling in general has its benefits and offers a wide range of opportunities, what makes international travel unique is that it forces students to go beyond their comfort zones and experience things that will make them feel uneasy, nervous and sometimes scared.

“I didn’t know what anyone was saying,” said senior Sheryne Garalde about her school trip to Japan. “When we went to the markets to shop, we could not understand anything.” Though Garalde felt out of place, she enjoyed the unique feeling of being in another country.

[one_third]Food is a language of its own, a blast of culture all in a few bites. [/one_third]

Being in another country allows students to analyze and compare social characteristics of different cultures: the way people talk, the way people carry themselves out, and the foods they eat.

Food is a language of its own, a blast of culture all in a few bites. Food communicates history and style, as seen in the use of noodles and fish paste in Southeast Asia, England’s fish and chips, and New York’s Coney Island hot dogs. Because food reflects culture, it plays a substantial role in an individual’s travel experience.What may be considered inedible in one country may be considered a delicacy in another. Travel Channel’s Bizzare Foods host, Andrew Zimmerman—who is no stranger to strange foods— says, “The best way is to travel with an open mind and an empty stomach.” Eating cuisine in another country allows an individual to become more adventurous, daring, and open minded.

Sometimes, the best way to experience a country is to explore it on your own. In my travels to Singapore and Hong Kong, learning how to use their transportation systems and how to say common phrases in their languages allowed me to blend into the local scene. Plus, learning bits and pieces of a new language may come in useful in the future. I definitely recommend it.

This past fall break, I went on the English Department’s British Literature trip to England. On our return, senior Micah Ito said, “I think I learned the most during my free time when I was able to explore around London. I tried to become one of them for a few hours. Exploring allowed me to find more than what I intended.”

My family goes to the Philippines quite often and every time I return, I always feel more grateful for the life I live in America where food is plentiful and new technology is available to every social class. Through my travels, I gained a better sense of taste, learned better manners and was educated on the world around me. They helped me learn the importance of giving back to the community, helping the poor, and working hard.

On my school trip to Peru in 2012, the effect of poverty on the country was quite evident. There were houses stacked on houses with crumbling foundations, children in the streets begging for money, and barely any clean water for drinking. Senior Dane Higuchi recalled, “It gives you a whole new perspective on life. The people in Peru are much less fortunate than those in America. It makes me feel grateful to live in America.”

Nothing can compare to the experience of being in a different country and indulging yourself in the tastes, the talk and the walk of other cultures. Traveling internationally has helped me to think more analytically and has given me a more intuitive understanding of life and what it means to be human. I have become more adventurous and discovered more about myself as a result of being in cultures that are different from mine. I have heard the sound of Cantonese coming out of Hong-Kong locals’ mouths like bullets, tasted the gaminess of guinea pig flesh in the Andes, and have smelled the crisp air of the Mexican riviera. I have been to Europe, South America, Central America, and toured much of Southeast Asia. International travel has brought me out of my shell. All the more, in today’s globalized society, we need to get out and see what the world has to offer.

Cartoon by Jana Sasaki (’15)