Thoughts on Foreign Travel

Molly Smith


Growing up, I had travelled to a few domestic locations. They were all your typical USA vacation hotspots- Colorado, California, Florida… you get the picture. I had always been told about how some people from other cultures eat bugs and exotic food, and that I should eat my vegetables because other children were not lucky enough to have them. I had been well-educated growing up, yet, somehow I remained mostly unaware of the cultures in the world around me. Fast forward to the summer after my sophomore year of high school, and I had become aware of an opportunity to travel to Costa Rica.

The thought of travel was exciting. Not to mention I would be able to exercise what I had learned from the two years of spanish classes I had taken. The closer the trip came, the more excited I was, and the more hesitant. My mom, as any great mother would, informed me of all of the foreign diseases that I could potentially get, along with all of the poisonous snakes and (my favorite) spiders. Between her worries being pushed onto me, the stress of packing as well as the anxiety I was beginning to feel from having to leave my family, I was starting to lose some of the excitement that came with travel. The day came and we arrived at the airport. I was more nervous than ever.

The next day we were off and ready to go on our bus. On that bus, I saw rainforests, mountains, ocean, monkeys, parrots, volcanoes, lakes, people, schoolchildren, food and a culture I had never seen before. I heard new music and animal sounds, and tried new food and dances that I never knew existed. Their music was different, their food was different, their homes and schools were even different.

Having been educated in a school system very different from the school we visited, I took a great deal of interest in the differences while we were there. At this school there were only 2-3 teachers and they taught large numbers of students ranging from kindergarten to late middle school and early high school. This was one of the culture shocks that hit me the hardest. On the basis of education, it was not easy for these people- students or teachers. I wondered if these students would ever be able to reach their full potential with this kind of education system.

I began to feel a little disappointed, maybe even pity for the people of Costa Rica, but throughout the week I began to feel this more towards the United States. Costa Rica has no army, has a free and mandatory education system, is on track to completely reverse their carbon footprint and to top it all off- Costa Rica is considered one of the happiest countries in the world.

Another opportunity this trip gave me was the opportunity to get college credit for studying abroad. I took this opportunity and researched the comparison of eco-architecture in the United States versus eco-architecture in Costa Rica. Not only did I receive a humanities credit, but this was part of what led me to decide to pursue a major as a biological systems engineer with environmental emphasis.

Had I never travelled to Costa Rica, I never would have had those experiences. From learning and getting college credit, to meeting knew people, having fun and being exposed to new animals, places and cultures, I thoroughly  enjoyed my experience from traveling abroad. I left my home nervous and uncertain, but I came back reluctantly and with new knowledge and great memories. Travel is good for all this and more. Without traveling abroad, I would never have been pushed out of my comfort zone and into the new world that has expanded my knowledge beyond the small town and country that I know.