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The three P’s: Post-return reflections

Filed in Blog, United Kingdom by on August 1, 2014

The moment has come for my final bulleted list of a blog post: a bulleted list in which I will attempt to essentialize my entire study abroad experience in a short list of abbreviated thoughts. This is the ultimate test in profound bullet-pointing, and I vow to give my utmost effort as a bullet-pointer to delivering this proposed profundity with panache and as many P’s as possible. These “three P’s” are the ponderings I can proffer to you:

  • People vs. place: Throughout my time abroad and over the course of many discussions with other students and travelers, one recurring and universal conversation seemed to be the classic question of whether it is the people or the place that truly make an experience meaningful. If I had to choose one I would certainly choose people, but I would also like to say a few words in favor of place. Places can expand your imagination and allow you to breathe. Places are deeply intertwined with routines, and so to break out of a routine it is useful to give your mind and body a new landscape to explore. Places are also where people are, so in that respect — and maybe all respects — they’re rather unavoidable. Ideally, these two particular P words won’t have to battle for your attention too often, but rather will collide in a perfect storm or Betty Crocker cake mix or whatever metaphor strikes your fancy, to afford you…
     
  • Perspective, of the “new” variety: Perspective is a word that gets thrown around a lot in the study abroad world. It lines the brochures handed out at the first informational meetings, flits in and out of ears and mouths during the months of being away and jumps off the tongues of everyone who asks about the experience upon your return home. The abounding new perspectives gained from studying abroad are real and wonderful, but I actually don’t think they’re necessarily the most important takeaway, at least for me. What is most important is that these new perspectives, once gained, then become part of a…
     
  • Positive feedback loop: You probably already know what a positive feedback loop is, but in case you don’t, I would like to call upon Wikipedia, most trusted of all cyber-tomes, for a definition. This is the first paragraph of the Wikipedia article on positive feedback: “Positive feedback is a process in which the effects of a small disturbance on a system include an increase in the magnitude of the perturbation. That is, A produces more of B which in turn produces more of A. In contrast, a system in which the results of a change act to reduce or counteract it has a negative feedback.”
     
    My biggest hope for my own and others’ study abroad experiences moving forward is that each one becomes the beginning of a life-long positive feedback loop. One worry that seemed to be ubiquitous among the study abroad students at Lancaster was that we would all fall back into habitual mindsets of complacency or even mild dissatisfaction upon returning home to places where we had spent so much time doing relatively mundane things. We resolved to try to view our respective locales with a curiosity and excitability to rival that which we felt abroad. We also resolved to continue traveling, and soon. I think this is probably one of the better instances of group think that I have been a part of. Traveling should produce more urge to travel. Curiosity should produce more curiosity. Being the recipient of a stranger’s kindness should produce in you the urge to be kind to strangers yourself. And, if I may use a more personal example, drinking tea should produce the urge to drink more tea. “A produces more of B which in turn produces more of A.” Especially if A and B are both tea. At any rate, study abroad shouldn’t become an isolated, quantifiable, neatly-packaged experience to be cloistered in the corners of your memory, but rather the action potential that excites a perpetual chain reaction of benevolent explorations.

Perhaps these three P’s are perfectly preposterous, but they are the best P’s I can bestow upon prospective study abroad students and other people who want to know what I think. I feel that inclusion of a few final P words is probably the most appropriate way to close out this final blog post, so thank you for reading and papoose, paddle, prebake, pabulum, pizzazz.

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