Having never traveled abroad as part of a school-related function, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I travel quite a bit as a professional, but other than comfortably navigating a foreign airport, I didn’t know how those experiences would translate. As it turns out, it combined those experiences and took them to the next level.
Right off the bat, I was able to feel comfortable in a place that wasn’t home. Through traveling for work, I’ve already crossed the bridge in understanding the level of respect that cultures and people outside of the U.S. deserve. The classic “American tourist” stereotype is not one I subscribe to, and one I look to avoid. Fortunately, the class was filled with students who also were looking to experience another culture in the same way I was, without the noxious behavior the stereotype represents.
Overall, the trip had a very collegial feel, with elements of summer camp from childhood. Any time you spend nearly 24 hours a day for a full week together with people, walls come down quickly, and the process of developing trust and friendships is accelerated. Independent of the professional and educational side of the trip, the opportunity to race through the process of developing human connections is exciting.
These human connections are developed in shared experiences, and one of the more memorable ones for me was the trip to Aegina, an island near Athens. Clearly a mecca for all things pistachio, the trip was most memorable for the time spent riding ATVs around the island with a group of guys. Just imagine: sharing the thrill of freedom to explore while racing along the pristine coast. Enjoying a freshly prepared meal overlooking a view impossible to adequately capture with a camera. Getting doused by a wall of water that outraced us back to the port. None of those memories will be forgotten, as the place, the people, and the experience are truly a once in a lifetime combination.
As I mentioned before, there is something to be said for being respectful of a culture unlike your own. For myself, my rapidly expanding desire to travel, and, in the future, perhaps live, being abroad is an addiction that requires fulfillment. Learning to enjoy the comfort of being slightly uncomfortable in a place that isn’t what you’re used to is an acquired skill. Gaining an appreciation for yet another culture outside of the states, especially one with the tremendous food, people, and history of Greece, is exhilarating.
I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to have experienced this, and can finally cross “study abroad” off my bucket list.
Adam Markley is a MBA candidate specializing in finance at the University of Baltimore. He is currently a director of operations, analysis, and strategy at 14 West, a professional services business that supports a global group of media and publishing companies. In his role, he manages both U.S. and Ireland-based employees that provide services to their global clients.