Study outside of comfort zone

One of my friends studied abroad in Florence, Italy last semester. She sent back pictures like those on postcards every now and then, leaving us struggling with projects, deadlines and exams in Iowa green-eyed.

That sounds like typical study-abroad experience—wandering the medieval towns, indulging yourself in Italy’s beautiful sunshine and wine — we rarely hear someone say, “I want to study abroad in Asia or Africa.”

The Daily Iowan reported most recently that the most popular destinations for University of Iowa undergraduates were Italy and Spain during 2011-2012. The number of students who went to these places jumped from 30 (2008-09) to 110 (2011-12). While programs based in Asia saw a drop of student participants.

Titled “Asia out of reach for many students studying abroad,” the story didn’t mention other continents of the world. I went to UI International Programs’ website and pulled up the latest UI study Abroad statistics, surprisingly found out that of 1,351 students who studied aboard during 2011-12, no one went to Africa.

I thought of Africa because I had happened to read a blog post by my art history professor, Christopher Roy, who is traveling through South Africa this spring. The art and culture are different yet so amusing, which brought me back to Roy’s Arts of Africa class I took two years ago.

Reilly’s Rock pront porch (Photo credit: Christopher Roy)

Reilly’s Rock pront porch (Photo credit: Christopher Roy)

Roy said in the last lecture that he did not expect us to remember anything about African ethnic groups or their works of art 20 years later. All he wanted us to take away from that class was to respect and to appreciate other cultures that are different from our own.

He finished his statement with a piece of advice, “You gotta travel all around the world and meet different people.”

It would be great to spend a semester in Italy, but I think I might learn a lot more in Ghana.