As Irwin Abrams says, and many other people think, studying abroad is “no more than sight-seeing with a syllabus”(Becoming World Wise pg. 35). There is some truth behind this statement. At a young age when we hear about foreign places abroad we are told of the sights to see and places to go. These are places that we are told we have to go see while abroad otherwise we have missed out on our experience. Friends, relatives, media outlets, and travel sites all have their analogous suggestions of where to go. You have to see the Eiffel Tower, you have to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the list goes on an on. And these are the places where study abroad students flock to because this is all we know, this is what we’ve been programmed to visit. We don’t know how to just enjoy the moment and the people; all we seem to know is how to take pictures to send back home and now be able to say that we’ve been there.
The students haven’t really been there though; all they did was just see what they could have from behind a computer screen. The typical study abroad student hasn’t experienced the culture or interacted with locals, the student is almost like a child watching a fish tank, poking it at times. Instead of this the student should dive into the sea of the different country and interact without the wall between them. Otherwise they are just playing into the stereotype of a student abroad and not fully achieving the abroad experience.
I am not above this stereotype myself. I have gone to the tourist sites and have taken the touristy pictures. I have also found myself accusing the foreign culture of being wrong in doing certain things when it is actually just different. Obviously I feel wrongly entitled for other countries to have American qualities, when in reality this would just make the countries less interesting. To discourage this type of behavior in student’s travels I would recommend them to get off the common trail of touristy destinations and go explore the different culture where not that many people go. Going for a walk or a jog with no particular destination can help in seeing the authentic culture in which you are staying. Just to actually interact within the community can help slowly put to rest the stereotype of the abroad student being a tourist with a syllabus. With enough abroad students changing their ways and doing these activities they can achieve a more cultural experience and change in perspective to achieve a well traveled mind.