I'm not sure if it's just me or if there's truly a cultural shift happening before my eyes, but it seems that many young people today (myself included) have this insatiable desire to change the world. But how to do so? And how to get started on a task that seems entirely overwhelming and improbable?
I remember while reading Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's Super Freakonomics, they noted that in order to affect change in the world, we must first understand it.
I think that, for many people, college provides the first true taste of independence, but the experience can still be incredibly limited. One of the best ways for students to learn about the broader world around them is to travel, and many schools offer study abroad programs that allow young people to do just that while continuing their studies.
Go. It is something entirely different to read about Italian architecture than to stand before it. It is something entirely different to hear dialects on a recording than to sit among the people and listen to their stories.
Act. Don't be afraid to dive right in if something speaks to your soul. I entered my study abroad semester in Rome not knowing another person in the program. I know people who researched programs that the university didn't offer on their own in order to get the academic support to turn their traveling dreams into a reality.
Move. Not only will going abroad teach you class materials from a new perspective and teach you firsthand about your host country, but it will also provide a fresh and clearer lens through which to see your hometown and home country. You will recognize the many differences in locale, culture, upbringing, and surroundings. You may also find a certain peace in the many similarities.
Be. You will learn about yourself as well. You will learn the difference between sitting in a classroom talking about a task and actually going out and completing that task. You will learn you are capable of learning from every person around you and that you too have something to teach people in a foreign corner of the world.
So what is holding you back? Have you explored the international programs page of your college's website? Have you made an appointment with an advisor to get started?
If your school offers a study abroad program that interests you and you can find a way to make it happen, you have been given a gift: the potential to study in another country, learn more than any words inside a textbook could ever teach you, and perhaps even one day change the world. As Henry Rollins once said, "A great way to learn about your country is to leave it."