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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Rachel Pott
Rachel Pott
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I am a marketing major about to start my second year at Northern Michigan University, however, this will be my third year in college. I previously attended a small community college...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

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Women’s spring soccer comes to an end this weekend
Lily GouinApril 19, 2024

Expand your worldview by studying abroad


For the first 20 years of my life, I never stepped foot outside of the country. In fact, I hardly left my home state of Michigan. I spoke no foreign languages and knew next-to-nothing about life elsewhere. Then last fall, I decided to hop on a plane and fly across the Atlantic to Sevilla, Spain, a beautiful southern city in the Iberian Peninsula, to spend three months studying international trade and politics.

Studying abroad is, without a doubt, the greatest decision I’ve made since starting college. Yet, when I urge my friends to pursue the same experience, they hesitate. My nagging is often rebuked with concerns over the price tag, worries about education quality or a vague statement like, “Why would I bother doing that?” 

Although there are opportunity costs when one chooses to study abroad, it pales in comparison to the value of the experience. Travelling outside of the United States offers the unique opportunity to watch how other countries and their citizens view our country, while we’re also able to view an unfiltered version of their reality, and the results may be surprising. For myself, the experience was transformative, and anybody who knows how thick-headed I am should marvel at that alone. Before my trip, I expected Europeans to hold me in some contempt because of my nationality. I had always heard about the stereotype of the dumb American tourist, and was also expecting some hostility due to our current president. Yet, my experience was just the opposite.

The first thing I noticed is that other countries pay a lot more attention to the United States than we do to them, and when considering the power of the American dollar worldwide, it makes sense. However, the attitude was not hostile in the slightest. 

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While Trump often describes foreign countries with the same language we might apply to leeches, the Europeans I spoke with viewed the United States as an ally leaving them behind. To them, we were still the America that arrived on foreign shores to fight alongside them against Nazi Germany and help liberate the continent. 

To them, we were still the America that held the torch of freedom high and sought to spread democratic values across the world. They believed in an America that a lot of us don’t even believe in anymore. They couldn’t understand why we had been pulling away from our allies and to be honest, when they put it like that, I wasn’t quite sure either. 

Sure, we contribute a lot more than we should to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), but Trump’s talk on tariffs seems a lot less abstract when you watch the Spanish olive farmers worry they will face economic devastation as a result.

I left the country a patriot and a Trump supporter. I proudly owned a MAGA hat and believed in “America First.” It was never out of disdain for anybody else, but a love for my country that led me to these beliefs.

Spending time outside my home country made me realize something that may sound obvious, but many of us often forget: people are people everywhere. American or not, people get hungry. People need safety and a good economy. And sometimes, people need help. I was lucky enough to be born in a country where people comparatively have a lot. I didn’t do anything to earn my place in the America that I was born in, like most people here. It’s a coin toss. 

Now, it seems strange that I would have used nationality as a standard to determine who should receive resources. During my time abroad, my love for fellow Americans generalized into a love for fellow humans, completely shattering all my political ideas.

My experience fundamentally changed the way I view the world. Of course, not everybody is going to have the experience I just specifically described, as all experiences are different.
My studies were political in nature, and so my experience was similar. 

The principle though is this: spending time abroad will broaden your perspective further than you think possible. I don’t think it’s possible to
come back the same after such an experience.

Studying abroad costs money, can complicate our degree plan and can seem unimportant. And of course, it’s not for everyone. However, anybody who came to college seeking to expand their worldview and enrich their education need to make studying abroad their first priority. I saved for a long time for the opportunity, and it was worth every penny and much more.

Riley Garland is a junior, economics major.

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