Studying abroad adds context, perspective to our lives

Photo courtesy of Harper Leigh

By Matthew Brammer | Guest Contributor

Perspective defines what we see as truth — a measure of our experience against facts and context.

For example, in Texas, it seems things are just bigger. At least, that’s what we’re told. We’re also told that Whataburger is the ‘world’s best burger’ and that Dr Pepper is the ‘very best drink.’ If you have never left the Lone Star State or have limited travel experience, these things might be true to you. But are they universally true?

What if you tasted a grass-fed beef burger basted in the creamiest butter, served on a handmade brioche bun and topped with organic tomatoes, lettuce and a slice of heavenly cheddar cheese? Maybe you would start to wonder if the title of ‘world’s best burger’ really goes to Whataburger.

What if, instead of bacon and eggs for breakfast, you were served the traditional Irish breakfast of a fried egg, ham, grilled potatoes, pork sausage and black pudding (pork sausage made with cow or pig blood and ground grain)? It’s hard to say whether you would like it or not if you haven’t had the opportunity to taste it.

What if, instead of chicken fajitas or chicken-fried steak for dinner, you tried haggis, tatties and neeps (a mixture of sheep’s heart, liver and lungs, combined with onions, oats and herbs, served over mashed potatoes with a side of mashed turnips)? You may or may not describe it as comfort food, but again, it’s impossible to say if you haven’t had the chance to taste it.

The point of studying abroad is to experience new things in different places and to gain perspective. The world doesn’t end at the end of Fifth Street, as Shel Silverstein suggested in “Where the Sidewalk Ends.” It’s much bigger.

This summer in Ireland, I have watched as students have taken their well-formed perspective of “the way things are” based on life in the United States and had the experience of international travel change it. Using a public bus system, thinking Baylor’s founding in 1845 is “old” until walking through a castle built around 600, planning shopping trips based on how many bags they could carry instead of how many boxes from Sam’s Club they could fit in the back of their SUV — it’s a new perspective.

In order to accomplish Baylor’s mission of “educating men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment,” it is critical to expand our view of the world by getting a little uncomfortable, seeing and trying new things, learning how people in other parts of the world live and exploring the history of why they do what they do.

In short, the impact of study abroad and international travel is to challenge perceptions and offer a different way to look at things. More context. A new perspective.

Join us as soon as you can. You’ll never look at things the same way.