LACERDA: Outside of the classroom, education transforms the mind

John LaCerda

Students can argue that an experience received outside of a classroom can be much more vital to one’s understanding of life than any material presented by a professor. Although memorization of definitions and analysis of textual information remains crucial to a strong college education, the benefits of a study abroad experience can outweigh the advantages of domestic learning. In 2005, one-third of the graduating class had studied overseas through either Villanova or non-Villanova programs. During the ’06-’07 school year, Villanova students enrolled in 28 different countries, including Argentina, Denmark, Oman and China. In the fall semester of 2008, my semester abroad, over 200 students from the class of 2010 attended international universities all over the world. With each new year comes stronger student interest in global education and a greater need for college administration to motivate the student body to expand their minds to a more universal framework. The Office of International Studies here at Villanova provides the community with the opportunity to experience the world beyond the borders of Villanova’s campus and the country. It is consistent with the mission of an Augustinian university. A student’s best interests are represented in OIS advising because it seeks to the further students’ academic goals and address more holistic, personal, developmental and social concerns. In general, however, the majority of the student body tends to shy away from these opportunities of global insight because the thought of living out of the country is intimidating. The challenge of overcoming a language barrier or the burden of the exchange rate unfortunately brings immense anxiety to those on the fence about studying in a foreign place, and rightfully so. Many students have not even left the country at any point in their lives, which can understandably cause an overwhelming feeling of uneasiness. In order to overcome this fear of departure from home and family, one must accept this challenge by fighting off preconceived notions of international travel and accepting the possibility that although it is very easy to worry about getting lost and feeling homesick, it is quite difficult to muster regret and disappointment upon arrival at a surreal landmark or an image of uncanny beauty. I was once inflicted with this burden of concern in the weeks and even months before my departure to Spain. I simply could not fathom the possibilities that lay ahead of me. What places would I visit? What kind of interesting people would I meet? My willingness, however, to separate myself from a strictly American cultivated mindset surmounted all apprehensions I had about Europe. While the number of students who choose to study abroad increases every year, an overwhelming majority decide otherwise. Although many majors, such as nursing and engineering, make it nearly impossible to graduate on time with a semester abroad, they certainly do not prohibit one from spending a month over the summer in a foreign country. A liberal arts education should include a global education. I spent 100 days of my life in a city where no one speaks English. I got lost, spent a lot of money, struggled in the classroom and missed my family and friends terribly. But I also learned about the human potential and the existence of love and happiness in a place far, far away from the confines of an American household. I think about that every day of my life. ——————-John LaCerda is a junior English major from Medfield, Mass. He can be reached at [email protected].