Oberlin Blogs

My Top 8 Reasons for Studying Abroad

February 23, 2014

Simbarashe Runyowa ’15

Make no mistake, Oberlin College is a great place to grow intellectually, socially and politically. The more I am away from Oberlin, the more I discover this to be true. While abroad, I am currently somewhat suspended between being in the "real world" and being a student. Because my study abroad school does not have a campus, I have to do a lot of things on my own: shopping, paying rent, thinking about utilities and internet, and generally being responsible for myself. This is not easy as I am very tall, meaning there is a lot of me to take care of.

Some things I have learnt: hunger cannot be gotten rid of with a mere swipe of a card, it must be alleviated by food which must be prepared and which should have been purchased prior to the moment at which hunger is experienced. By you.

Internet, bless it, is not a magic substance that can connect you to the world via your Obie password. It must be sourced. Again, by you. Toilet paper, also, shockingly does not grow in the bathroom. You have to go and get it, yourself! Boo hoo, independence.

What I love about my study abroad is that it's just the right amount of frightening independence tempered by the knowledge that should anything ever go wrong, I am still but just a student and have the comfortably fluffy status of an Obie to fall back on. But I definitely needed a break from Oberlin! While it is comfortable and safe, there is something about being comfortable and safe that ultimately makes me feel uncomfortable. Safety makes me uneasy and restless. This is why, after two and a half years of Oberlin, I decided I needed to go far far away from it. Oberlin is indeed small. It can get repetitive, and frankly, I became fatigued by the sameness of it. The dreary winters that drone on did little to inspire. The sense of freshness and wonder I felt as a freshman ebbed into an insidious depression. I felt stifled, bored and devoid of energy. I needed a radical change of environment that would re-ignite some passion into my studies and my world. So the opportunity to study abroad came at an opportune moment.

I wrote down a few things I wanted to accomplish during my semester away:

1. To exhaust my potential but not my body.
Why: Because in Oberlin I worked so hard that eventually I could feel the physical toll of that toil.
Author mid fall on ice skates
I went ice skating the other day and it looks like I'm already failing at number 1. Oh well, it's the effort that counts really.

2. To be rejuvenated.
Why: Because I had begun to feel limited imaginatively, creatively and spiritually in the "Oberlin bubble" (which is ironic, since Oberlin is very good at fostering those attributes).
Author in the middle of an ice rink full of people

3. To master a new language.
Why: Because one of my friends once told me that when you know a different language, you can almost uncover a different pathway of experiencing the world. Being bilingual, I know this to be true, so I wanted to master French once and for all and see what kind of dimension to the world this will open up.

5. To focus towards an academic passion.
Why: Because at Oberlin, I haven't yet had the opportunity to specialize in my interests.

6. To embrace spontaneity so as to experience new feelings and things.
Why: Because this is always awesome.
Snail shells filled with pesto
So I ate snails, a stereotypically touristy delicacy in Paris. Smothered in garlic butter and pesto, I could focus more on the flavour and less on the slime.

7. To challenge my beliefs and open myself to new paradigms of thought.
Why: Because ideas.
A crowd and police in front of the Sciences Po library
A protest at Sciences Po. The French like to challenge each other.

8. To immerse myself in the culture and history of a new place in order to edify the scope of my knowledge and to broaden the circumference of my worldview.
Why: Because I know only about 2 things about French culture. Which are that I like their food, and Paris.
Mid century statue
But I'm learning more, of course. Like this statue of Louis XIV and his untenably sassy pose.

My study abroad so far is teaching me that absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. I miss Oberlin a lot already, and always compare most things to France and think, Oberlin is better at this. Except the views of Paris. You can't really beat that. Sorry, Oberlin.

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