How Studying Abroad Made Me Richer

Written by Sukpreet Published in

As a consumer based, capitalistic society, we, Americans are in love with success and all of the things that lead us up to it: religiously checking off to-do lists, staying laser focused, keeping our eyes on our goals, and averted from the rest of the world and all its distractions. Studying abroad for five months was the best thing that happened to me before I got trapped into America's web of 9-5's, home to work, work to home lifestyle. I have always been proud of my insane ability to focus on projects whether they are school related or extracurricular. I am highly organized, type A, would rather spend two hours reading TechCrunch articles than spend two hours having a conversation over a long lunch. And this all changed over the five months that I lived in Europe. America doesn't live enough. We are obsessed with having more, the next better. We want the best car, the best phone, the newest edition and we want it first. We work hard for what we have and we think that's all that we need. And we are so wrong. Over five months, I explored Europe. I ditched Google Maps and my Lonely Planet guides books that I hauled from the States. I got lost. Sometimes, I found my way around the streets of Spain, sometimes I didn't. I had a two hour breakfast in Paris, simply because I wanted to. I spent 5 hours trying to find a palace in Portugal that I never found. I took a 250 euro cab to Morocco when I missed my connecting bus and crossed into Africa without my excursion group. I rode a bike on the streets of Amsterdam, almost to my near death. I talked to strangers. I stayed in hostels. I ate strange food. For once in my life, I didn't plan my next move. I let life happen to me. The first couple weeks in Madrid I checked my email everyday, I spent time reading NY Times, I networked through LinkedIn. I tried everything to stay connected and then I realized that's not what studying abroad is about. I had to let go if I wanted to grow. I needed to step away from my comfort zone and into the unknown. I know I am not good at understanding things out of my control. I have a desire to know everything, to create itineraries for my days. I know what I want to do and I know how to get there. Living in Europe was foreign and home to me at the same time. Having lived in Germany from birth to age 8, I was returning home, but as a foreigner. I traveled to many countries on weekends. I spent more time in airports and airplanes than I did in cars. I used the public transportation in 7 different languages and I fell in love with simply not knowing everything. I am returning to the States with a different perspective. I am more open to different cultures and ideas. I know how it feels to be in a group of people and be the one that doesn't understand. I am okay with not planning my every move. I am okay with the fact that I changed my major because I actually hate finance and want nothing to do with it. I am driven to succeed, more than ever, but I am willing to accept that sometimes it is acceptable to have a two hour lunch, sometimes I will want to take a walk to nowhere, sometimes, I will just want to drive with no purpose. Life is meant to be lived, not to be rushed through. Traveling is the only thing that you buy that makes you richer and I am coming back so wealthy.

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