Education is a lifelong pursuit and experiencing lessons first hand is the best way to learn. Just like doing labs in science, traveling is the lab of life, except there’s no final paper.
My time in Slovakia and Europe has been complex, difficult and insanely awesome. I have met some incredible people and seen amazing things. The other day as I was running, I thought about all of the places I have been, the people I have met, the things I have seen, and where I still want to go. I realized that I have seen some of the most beautiful things our planet has to offer, and I still want more. But why do I want more? Why do I want to see temples in Thailand or live in South America? Where did this wanderlust come from?
Once I completed college, I was sad. Education is something I absolutely love: It is challenging, fulfilling, and gratifying. My education was complete; I had graduated from college. This year abroad has taught me how wrong I was with that conclusion. I will never stop learning, and I will never stop seeking knowledge. The knowledge that I will gain might not be handed in and graded by a teacher or professor. It will contribute to my understanding about what it is that will make this world a better place.
Whenever I read the news it can often leave me discouraged and sad. I hear about wars, prisons, droughts or people doing bad things to each other. These are all complicated issues that will take a long time to solve. However, traveling in Europe this year has shown me what can happen after the war. When I went to Krakow in Poland, I visited the site of Auschwitz, a terrible concentration camp during the Second World War. It was a very moving experience that left me in tears, but I realized that the people who survived continued to live and prosper. They loved. They had families. It gave me hope. The world condemned and punished those who committed the crimes during the Second World War. While there are scars from the war, people are still moving forward and growing.
The entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp
More recently I went to Dubrovnik, Croatia, where only 20 years ago, the city was in ruins because of war. I would not know that war had happened there 20 years ago because the Croatians, with the help of other countries, rebuilt their beautiful city. The country is now flourishing and growing at a very healthy pace. It is one thing to read about these places in a book, but to see them and touch them gives you a different understanding of what happened.
Krakov in Poland
Wieliczka salt mines in Poland
Traveling is an incredible way to learn, and you don’t even need to leave your state to do it. Traveling is simply seeing and learning something new. We can travel every day. It may not be to an exotic location, but just visiting the next town or a new neighborhood can open our eyes to whole new experiences and ideas. I think it’s important to expose yourself to new experiences, because this not only teaches you about the world, but also about yourself. Pushing your boundaries and comfort-zone is a test that only you can pass. Traveling allows for this growth and is a way to improve our knowledge of the world and ourselves.
Traditional Slovakian headpiece
I still have two months left in Europe and there are plenty of places I want to see while I’m here. When I am finished with my year in Europe, I will return home and I will do my best to see as much of my own country before I leave it again.
Education is a lifelong process and it is something to be enjoyed and savored. I am hoping to return to school and receive a Master’s degree in public policy. In the meantime I will continue traveling and hopefully living in new countries to see how people live. I think it’s important to understand how other countries and states choose to run their government, and how the people of those places live within their laws. Traveling is another way to see and learn how other societies and cultures function. This experiential or hands-on way of learning is one that I value and prefer. It makes the lessons I’ve learned from books translatable or visible in the real world.
I hope you have enjoyed these past months as much as me. Getting to tell you about my life abroad as well as answering your questions has been incredibly enjoyable. Thank you for your attention and excellent questions during our Skype sessions; they were so much fun for me! Good luck with your studies, and don’t ever think somewhere is too far away. If you want to experience something, remember that the amount of time it takes to get there is only a small price to pay for the experience itself.