How Traveling Enhances Learning

By Lorena Roberts on October 26, 2017

Have you ever wondered why or if it’s even necessary to study abroad? I have. And I can add that while I was studying abroad, I was especially wondering why it was “so important.”

Many universities have implemented a study abroad requirement in order to receive a degree. It may seem silly at first glance, but when you really think about it, traveling is such an education in itself. Traveling is something you can’t learn in a classroom.

Here are five reasons why you should consider traveling to enhance your learning and how it will really affect you as a person.

1. Real-life connections

Sitting in history is BORING. (Okay, maybe not to you history buffs out there). I can’t stand sitting in a history class. Honestly, I’d rather have to take chemistry than listen to a history professor go on and on and on about a civilization or some people I don’t give two craps about. But when you travel, history comes to life.

When I studied abroad in Germany, I made a lot of connections to history that I’ve learned about previously. Being there, where things really took place, was way cooler than looking at pictures on a PowerPoint slide. I was way more interested and actually retained some of the information (which is more than I can say about my American History class in high school).

2. Out-of-classroom experiences

Things like stress management and communication skills can’t always be polished in a classroom. If you study abroad and have to travel with a classmate, I guarantee you’ll be able to identify some areas for improvement.

I can remember multiple instances where I identified that I needed to become a better communicator. I needed to learn how to make plans with other people and not for other people. I had finally been put in a situation where I wasn’t in control. It was a big learning curve.

Though these may not seem like things that will directly impact your learning, it’ll help you in the long run. Just having the experience of traveling will give you so many more perspectives on life.

3. Defining yourself

If you feel like you haven’t exactly defined your identity, leave the country for a semester. I can guarantee that you’ll come back with a better handle on who you are and what you have to offer the world. I found out so many things about myself when I was in Germany for five weeks. In those five weeks, I learned more about who I am and what I represent than the previous year I had spent on campus.

There’s something about having to manage yourself in a new place. There’s something about having to plan ahead and explore on your own. There’s something about traveling that teaches you so many more things about yourself than what you can get from being in college. I’m not sure how, but you’ll figure out who you are if you give yourself some time to travel.

4. New ways of living

When you travel, you’ll have to learn a different way of living. Whether you’re getting your clothes out of a suitcase in the morning, or you’re sharing a bathroom with a bunch of international men, you’ll have to get outside your comfort zone and look at how other parts of the world live.

When you’re sitting in your European apartment without a dryer and the tiniest fridge you’ve ever seen, you’ll appreciate their attempt to decrease their footprint on the world. They’re trying to save energy. Why don’t we do this in America? Because we’re pigs, that’s why.

5. Gratitude

You’ll return home with a newfound appreciation for your life and the opportunities you’ve been given. After I traveled around Europe, I came home so much more thankful to go to a university with comfortable housing. I couldn’t have been happier to share a bathroom with 59 other 18 to 22-year-old girls. I couldn’t have been happier to get up for my 8 a.m. courses. I had such a deepened appreciation for what I had been given. Traveling taught me to be thankful.

All in all, traveling will enhance your learning experiences as well as influence your future learning experiences. It’s worth it to take a few trips around or out of the country. It’s worth it to learn who you are on a train in the middle of Europe. It’s worth it to have the meltdown when you miss your flight. It’s worth it to see how other parts of the world live and to be thankful for what you’ve had.

I’ll never forget coming home from Germany and opening my parents’ refrigerator. I was so thankful that it was stocked full of food — American food. I was so hungry. I was thankful I’d had the experience — but I was so glad to be home.

Lorena graduated from The University of Tennessee in Knoxville last December with a BA in Honors Psychology. After some serious soul-searching, she's decided to pursue a Master's in teaching in order to teach middle school math! In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her Whippet mix, Gio, at the dog park and binge watching Netflix with endless cups of Hot Cocoa.

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