Life Changing Experiences

27 Mar

LostGuys

I have been home from Jordan and Morocco for a few months now, and was asked to write a short piece on my post-study abroad experiences. It has been great to occasionally reflect back on the events that have taken place over the past year, including everything that led up to studying overseas.  One decision influenced the next, ex. having made the decision to change majors (originally ECET, now Political Science) led to the decision to learn Arabic for future career purposes, which then led to an adventure in the Middle East and North Africa. More big things are coming, but before we go into that I want to share some important lessons that I learned. Some might be obvious already, but studying abroad was the best time to really practice these:

Take your language experience seriously – If you are enrolled in intensive language and culture courses while overseas, treat them intensely! Even if you are a beginner, you can really learn a language if you put all effort, time and resource into it. I made a consistent effort to go beyond textbook Arabic by really working to improve my speaking ability (which in turn helped my reading and writing abilities). My host family in Morocco spoke only Arabic and French, so being reduced to Arabic helped me to determine what that I didn’t know…but really wanted to say. The language course required the students to prepare short weekly presentations on any subject. I choose topics such as the history of April fools day, Curiosity Rover, The Red Bull Stratos skydiving project, how to play Uno etc. and really forced myself to learn new vocabulary. I also attempted to know the subjects well enough in Arabic, as to be able to get up and freely talk about them outside of a rote presentation. Talk to Cab drivers and store owners, just go for it!

Leave bad habits at home – Come to the host country…and leave bad college habits behind! While in Jordan I studied with a great group of Americans. However, Jordan is a fairly conservative country in regards to religion and the “sober” lifestyle associated with Islam. Many of the students I studied with would go out at night and act like they were at an American college town. Some of them had a close call one night when they went to a drinking/loud music party. They were attacked by stone-throwing locals and had to be escorted back to the city in police vehicles (true story). What a scary memory to have for your time overseas! A study abroad program will really change you for the better if you let it, so give up your old life temporarily and give a new one a chance. Take the cultural element seriously, or you are just wasting your money.

Dealing with Panic-mode – Panic-mode can lead to logic-lock, where you start to make irrational decisions. The solution: train your brain so that when you face a difficult situation, the overriding thought in your head is “Ok well there is a solution to this, lets get busy and find it!” In Morocco, a fellow American and I attempted an independent excursion to the coastal town of Mirleft, in Southern Morocco (1 day journey). At the first stop on the way, we discovered that the destination was not where we originally thought, and would require a new plan of travel to get there. The situation was further complicated, as there was a major Islamic holiday occurring and all buses for travel beyond that were full. After price haggling and 3 taxi rides across the Moroccan countryside, we finally made it to the beautiful town of Mirleft. It was difficult, as we had to negotiate a new taxi at every stop, and at one point almost lost a bag. But you have to go through hard experiences to have the best experiences, and I consider the Mirleft trip to be one of the best excursions during the 6 month trip.

As cliche as these sound, they are absolutely true! My time overseas was incredibly satisfying. I am motivated to finish strong at Purdue and prepare well for a good future, one that will involve moving my future family (wife, 3-4 kids) around the world.  In the meantime, the experience in Jordan has made it possible to return this summer for an internship with a major security studies institute. College life is great, and studying abroad has made it even better. Anyway, hope you have enjoyed all of the entries. As a study abroad ambassador here at Purdue, my job is to promote and encourage others to take up traveling while in university. Questions? contact me at willschultz1@gmail.com. Take care!

 

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

 

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