Two continents, three countries, and 14 cities later

Lindsay Kearns is a junior studying Spanish with a business minor.  She is also planning on receiving her Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate before graduating next Spring. During Winter Quarter, she is studying abroad in Toledo, Spain.

Although ten weeks is a relatively short period of time to be abroad, my
knowledge of the different cultures, traditions, and perceptions of the world has
increased immensely. Not only have I learned about the ways of others, but I have learned a lot about myself. During my time studying in Spain, I have traveled a majority of the weekends within Spain, within Europe, and even to Africa. Here are some of the most important things I have learned.

1. Traveling does not always have to be expensive.
Due to the increasing popularity of traveling and social networking, the cost
of traveling can easily be reduced if you look in the right places. Instead of
opting for five star hotels, look up hostels. I spent 4 nights in Marrakech,
Morocco and spent 10 euro/ night. A new trend is couch-surfing which
involves crashing on a locals couch for a low fee. This new form of traveling
has evolved to create a cheap connection between travelers around the
world. In reality, a bed is a bed no matter the price and as long as you have a
roof over your head, you should take the opportunity to travel.

2. The internet is present almost everywhere.
It surprised me that in every city I have traveled to, it is easy to spot
restaurants, cafes, or hotels that advertise wifi. Even while hiking through
the Atlas mountains I saw signs for wifi. Although it can be comforting to feel
connected to the world, I think this goes to show how small the world really
can be.

3.It is easy to meet people if you try.
All it takes is a smile and the exchange of a few small words to make a new
friend. Whether this occurs in a hostel, or while taking a walk through the
town is up to you. I have become familiar with several locals during my stay
here and have found comfort in getting to know them. I traveled to Italy in
the summer of 2011 and met up with a friend I met when I returned this
winter. Making foreign friends is a unique experience, and maintaining
contact with them proves beneficial while traveling.

4. Any attempt to speak the local language is appreciated.
Although your pronunciation might be butchered, the locals will
acknowledge your attempt to try. Looking up key phrases such as please,
thank you, hello and good-bye can go a long way while traveling. It will also
show that you realize that English is not everyone’s first language.

5. Traveling abroad changes the perception of where you come from.
I have compared many traditions and customs that I have been shown on my
travels with those back home and have realized that what I am familiar with
is not always superior. For example, people were hesitant about eating later,
as they do in Spain. However, it makes sense with their schedule and goes to
show that eating on American time is not always the best option.

6. People generally have good intentions.
I feel that one of the main reasons people decide not to travel is because they
are afraid of cultural differences and of the people abroad. Not everyone
in the world is a theif, kidnapper or killer. Most foreigners have more in
common with Americans than we think. At the end of the day, they have to
make a living and provide for a family just as we do, and they will try to help
others along the way. You will encounter genuinely nice and helpful people
wherever you travel.

7. College is the perfect time to travel.
Ohio University offers a variety of study abroad options. You can travel based
on the time of year, the destination, or your major. The classes can be flexible
and can easily fit into almost every schedule. Traveling while you are young
allows you to participate in almost every adventure. You can endure long
days of walking, hiking, or horse riding. You are young enough to handle
staying out until sunrise with the locals. Traveling while you are young gives
you a great deal of independence and allows you to mature and take on new
responsibilities. You can also explore the world and still have time to revisit
your favorite places. The only way to know what the world is all about is to
travel it. Make foreign friends. Embrace different cultures. Accept different
customs.

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