Opinion

From sea to shining sea, cross-cultural experiences are invaluable to life

Written by Alyssa Eby

Bluffton University’s cross-cultural graduation requirement gives students the invaluable opportunity to experience other cultures. From semester-long trips to Guatemala, Washington, D.C. and other locations for two- or three-week experiences in places like Iceland, Botswana or West Virginia, students have the choice to apply for experiences in a variety of domestic and international options varying in length.

Some still choose to take two semesters of a foreign language instead.

Many students look at this requirement solely as a major blow to their bank account without considering the experiences they will encounter as something they could never put a price tag on. Too many view it as a requirement to fill instead of an irreplaceable opportunity Bluffton provides us.

Most of the international trips cost between $2,000 and $5,000. While these numbers seem high to students paying for college, the cost is not nearly as high as it would be for a vacation. Students should consider these trips impeccable deals for the experiences we have while on cross-cultural.

I took a trip to Iceland the summer after my sophomore year. Not only did I get to meet new people, but I was able to go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip. After spending a few days in Reykjavik, we hopped on a bus and spent the rest of our time traveling around the entire perimeter of the country, stopping at least once daily for adventurous excursions.

The amount and type of expeditions that cross-cultural trips offer far outweigh their financial costs. My experience was limited to two weeks, while other students have spent entire semesters in places like Guatemala, Ecuador, Ireland, New Zealand and Washington, D.C.

In today’s modern world, it’s helpful to learn and know a second language, but I don’t view it as an equivalent to visiting a new place for a length of time to fully embrace and experience a new culture. Hour-long Spanish class trips to a Mexican restaurant aren’t the same as immersing yourself into a culture for a few weeks or a few months.

Leaving Ohio for four months isn’t for everyone—it wasn’t for me at first—but that’s where the short-term experiences provide a happy medium for all. It’s enough to stretch ourselves as young adults without taking us out of our comfort zones for too long.

My experience in Iceland was something I’ll never forget, and it will never be something I’ll look at as a financial hindrance. Bluffton’s liberal arts education requirements are what provided me—and my fellow classmates—with experiences we may never come across again.

No two experiences are ever the same, which is another factor that makes these opportunities invaluable. Bolivia and Botswana trips are nothing like trips to China or Chicago, but all offer the cross-cultural experience by being immersed in distinct cultures. Even students who attend the same trips can have different experiences based on what stood out to them.

I understand for some people traveling really just isn’t an option, which is another reason why everyone who is able, should. Sometimes allergies, family situations or lack of funds are obstacles students are unable to get around—but for everyone who can, go.

When am I going to have the opportunity to climb a mountain in the middle of nowhere in Iceland again? When else will I go whale-watching off the coast of Iceland and visit tiny Icelandic towns and large farms? When in my lifetime will I feel like I’m on the set of a movie everywhere I look?

I think back to my trip on a weekly basis, and so often I long to return. I find it disappointing and heart-breaking that not everyone who attends Bluffton has those cherished memories of a cross-cultural experience.

We haven’t reached the real world quite yet, and this is our time to explore and travel the world, to discover ourselves and our place in this global community.

You never know when you may get this chance again.

About the author

Alyssa Eby

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