Lester: Positive over-seas experience

Kerry Lester

The New York Times recently published an article reporting that at least 160,000 American college students each year spend time studying overseas.

To me, this figure isn’t surprising in the least, given my experience the past few days at Villanova. It seems that whether I’m at a party, standing in line at the bookstore, or in the restroom, I encounter someone who has been abroad. They speak of sky-diving in the Swiss Alps, buying homemade gallons of wine in Sicily, hiking through tiny villages in Tuscany, and visiting topless beaches.

I spent last semester in Galway, Ireland, relishing a five-month opportunity to explore the land of my ancestors, as well as, have the freedom to jet around Europe via insanely cheap flights. I returned with badges of my own unique experiences, some carefully wrapped in newspaper, and others through the glorious technology of a digital camera.

I’ve never been a sorority sister, a varsity captain, or a member of a popular clique. But now I’m a veteran who shares common threads with other travelers, whether they have studied in Italy, the UK, Spain, or Russia. There is the instant connection of returning to the States nearly broke, poorly attempting to mimic various accents and reminiscing about constantly eating the same cheap foods to save a bit of dough.

But most importantly, we’ve almost all returned with a better sense of our role as Americans. By being told by some we are a fast-talking, obese, and self-absorbed nation, and considered by others to be a benevolent superpower, we’ve gained a bit of perspective through our travels and know that there is life outside what CNN, Fox, or the New York Times report.

My fellow students and I have learned innumerable truths from our recent travels.

However, I have a peculiar sense that, while the world has made its mark on Villanova, Villanova has also impacted the world. While getting to know my roommates at NUI Galway, wonderful girls from Dublin, Waterford and Mayo, I was surprised by their interest in my own school back “home.” I learned they had lived with another ‘Nova student a prior semester, who had told them of the Oreo, our easy relations with professors and the variety of campus activities offered on campus. “Do the buildings really match one another?” one asked me. “It sounds like such a beautiful place.” I remember smiling to myself, realizing that Villanova educates far more than 7,000 American undergrads each year.

Think of it as globalization, Nova-style.