Ever since its first trip to England in 1969, Elon University’s study abroad program has steadily risen in popularity and is today considered an essential cornerstone in the Elon identity.
Though a student’s Experiential Learning Requirement (ELR) can be achieved just as well through service learning or research, study abroad has become so favored among students that to many, it is practically a requisite component of the college experience.
But just as study abroad allows us a greater awareness of our participation in a global community, it also gives us more insight into the dangers of the world that we may not consider in our daily lives at Elon. Specifically, the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels within the past six months that have reinvigorated the fear of the unknown inherent in studying far beyond the comforts of home.
This sense of fear, in addition to the greater financial costs of studying abroad, has caused many U.S. college students and parents to question the legitimacy of studying abroad and whether it is a practice that universities should continue to endorse.
It’s true: There is inherent risk when participating in study abroad. While many students come to Elon from across the country and exercise their independence even in coming to school, studying abroad is the figurative next step forward in establishing our identity, both as students and members of a broader society.
It allows for a more intimate understanding of foreign culture than could ever be conveyed in a guide or second-hand experience. Furthermore, while being abroad under the umbrella of education surely doesn’t guarantee one’s absolute safety, it definitely provides a better means of security than going abroad alone.
The world can be a scary place, but this should not be considered characteristic of the world outside of the United States. Study abroad is worth its weight as an adventure because it not only provides those opportunities for self-growth, but allows for a greater understanding as to how we, as a global community, can respond to the problems in the world.
If students looking to satisfy ELR credit are still unnerved by the uncertain future, then at least there are alternate options. But, if you choose to forgo studying abroad, consider what experiences you might be missing, and how you might still be able to grow as a citizen of the world.