Right about now, my cousin Pat is on a plane heading to South Africa. He is fortunate enough to be embarking on one of the greatest experiences a college student can have: he is studying abroad.
Many of my friends and I, too, have shared this experience.**
People who haven't studied abroad don't really understand what all the fuss is about. Frequently, those people hear bits and pieces of stories. They criticize that nobody actually ever goes to class, and all we do is party and take a few liberties with our party guests. Don't worry, we did. And, we did. But while class is certainly part of the experience, it's not the only part.
During a normal home-bound semester, things get stale. You hang out with the same people, have very ritualistic social patterns, get bored. The beautiful thing about being abroad is that everything is so unknown and new. You always have something new to discover or a new friendship to create. It's all there for the people willing to look for it.
The group I studied abroad with was fortunate that a few of us early on met and became friends with the proprietor and staff of one the local drinking establishments. Through this, our group was able to get VIP treatment to an Aussie Rules football game. Sure, you could experience this with 2 of your classmates by yourselves, but 20 Domers teaching a handful of Aussies what makes a true tailgate in exchange for firsthand explanation of that crazy, wonderful game is something I'll never forget.
Anyway Pat, I hope you experience everything you can while you are there. Go to class, but don't miss out on something you may never get the chance to do ever again. Take time to meet the locals and embrace the culture. Your life will be that much fuller when you come home.
* I know this is a song lyric, but it's also the name of the blog started by one of my college roommates about his experience in the Peace Corps and ongoing developments in Madagascar. Check it out. He's a good writer and even better dude. cplanicka.blogspot.com
** If you couldn't gather from the rest of this, I studied abroad in Fremantle, Australia. I could never dream of writing something that would do that country justice, but if you want to read something about Oz that does, go get Bill Bryson's "In a Sunburned Country." It really is a great piece of travel writing. Australia is a fascinating, fun, beautiful country, and I think everyone should visit there at some point.