I believe in this optimistic view to a degree, but I also know from experience that, sometimes, you only do get one single opportunity to take a life-changing chance. For me, studying abroad was just that. I think many others would agree.
The plate you see above was my first official "study abroad" meal. With scrambled eggs, yogurt, zucchini bread, and fresh fruit, it was hardly an exotic breakfast. But the cuy that followed, in addition to cochayuyo, these shellfish, endive, and tarte flambée would all still be foreign had I not been so deliciously introduced.
It was about building relationships with people who grew up in completely different environments than the one I myself was raised in, and discovering that we had nearly everything in common when it came that which mattered.
It was about seeing amazing ruins of historical significance with my own eyes.
It was about being a minority as an American and a native English speaker. It was about adopting a new culture as I became somewhat multilingual.
Most college students aren't required to study abroad. Yet according to the Institute of International Education, more are doing so anyway. We have our entire lives to travel, (and we should, often), but studying abroad is a unique experience that has the power to transform us from pampered young adults to cultured global citizens.
It obviously doesn't always have such magical effects, but it most certainly can if you let it. You simply have to be open with the world and patient with yourself.
I will forever be grateful I decided to study abroad for a year--I actually made it happen, in spite of seemingly countless fears and doubts. I gained a clear sense of independence, self-sufficiency, and self-trust. I matured, I played, I flourished in ways I didn't know were possible. And if you are given the opportunity to study abroad, (my brother is currently applying to spend a semester in the third most popular destination), with all my heart I hope you'll take it.