Studying Abroad: What’s Your Real Purpose?

Thinking more in depth about medical volunteerism has forced me to contemplate everything regarding studying abroad. I was on scrolling on twitter when I saw my friend tweet something along these lines, “I can’t wait to go dancing at the bars in Tuscany.” She’s studying abroad next semester in Italy. Reading this tweet in correlation with our discussions in class made me realize something: how often is it that someone studies abroad to genuinely study and experience the educational opportunities that another country may have in store for them. I’m sure many people would argue that this is their reason for studying abroad, but how many people truly mean this? I’m constantly scrolling through my Instagram and Facebook feed and seeing pictures of people in bikinis or with a drink in their hand with beautiful scenery behind them and making captions about how great their study abroad experience is. While it’s nice and completely acceptable to have fun in a foreign country and document it, I often don’t hear students talking about how many insightful things they learned from their classes or experiences while overseas. I’m sure people that greatly value their education and pull worthwhile knowledge from it do exist, I just feel that these people are few and far between.

In relation to this, medical volunteerism is usually sought out for one’s selfish personal gain; whether this is consciously realized or not. The multiple articles that we have read have proved this. While this is clearly an ethical issue, I believe that it spans much further than just medical volunteerism.

Now please bear with me as I am about to make a controversial statement. Americans, as well as us college student’s generation, are an extremely selfish group of people. With social media becoming an extremely prevalent facet in our culture, and the media creating a “It’s All About Me” complex over the past few decades, we have become a culture that focused on the part regarding ourselves, not the larger whole. I read an article a while back from the Washington Post regarding how Americans perceive the citizens of the country as a whole. The majority of those who participated in a poll said that Americans can be described as patriotic, dishonest, lazy, and unintelligent (2015). Now, I don’t know about anyone else but I’m not happy with the majority of those adjectives. But these results lead me to a pressing question. If Americans can acknowledge these flaws, then why is our society continually falling into them. Although this post is similar to my last one, I do believe that these mindsets of selfishness have been instilled within us so deeply that it’s hard to escape them. I’m very content with our work on our collective course project because I do believe that this is a start at tackling this problem because it forces students to reflect and examine their own reasoning for traveling across the world to volunteer. But will this be enough? Will all of us as students continue to force people to reflect in life? Or will we just end this process at the close of the semester?

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