The American Word :: In Defense of Not Studying Abroad

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An American University student-run magazine since 1999

In Defense of Not Studying Abroad

By Amanda Ludden

When I graduate in December, the most distant extension of my education will have taken place in Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, my friends and classmates have logged semesters abroad across Europe, through the Middle East and a score of places in South America.

Heck, I haven’t even set foot in an embassy.

Luckily, I was born in South Korea, which makes me ethnic for administrative purposes. But counting me as part of a multicultural cohort—as AU has for the last four years—discounts the fact that I’ve spent my entire sentient life stateside, speaking English and only English in a small rural town. In fact, most people have studied abroad for longer than I lived abroad before I was adopted.

Perhaps I haven’t felt the urge to travel because I don’t think it would enhance my credentials. To look at me, you might expect that I’ve spent some time in whatever Asian country I could plausibly hail from—big deal. What are a few more passport stamps but diminishing marginal returns toward a global profile? Maybe I’m too complacent knowing that I can enjoy the rights of an American without being taken for one when I go abroad. I don’t envy the pressure of homegrown American college students to “expand their horizons” by spending more money for fewer credits in abroad programs with varying degrees of support. Though I’m certain that had the opportunity presented itself, I would have found a way to enjoy a semester overseas.

But that leads me to wonder: if, in an alternate timeline, a version of me spent a year in France, which of me would be more attractive to graduate schools? Employers? Peers? Wouldn’t the me from Paris have, arithmetically, more experience? Therein lies a fallacy: the value of an experience shouldn’t be weighted by geography. Consider these opposing perspectives, one from a student quoted in a 2005 Eagle article by Elizabeth Royall (“Study abroad mandatory at two national universities”) and the other from a short story by Paul Auster:

“You miss out on so many experiences from just staying at AU that you can gain from going abroad,” said former AU student, Bethany Arnold.

“People say you have to travel to see the world. Sometimes I think that if you just stay in one place and keep your eyes open, you’re going to see just about all that you can handle.” – Paul Auster

Those who regret not studying abroad in college shouldn’t lament their lack of international experience, but the fact that they conjured no way to diversify their domestic one. Auster’s quote needn’t be a motto only for students for whom studying abroad is or was financially or curricularly unviable. I’d like for it to resonate with (and then silence) travelitists who avidly and tactlessly insert their experiences into class discussions

I’d rather hear about your internship.