Hit The Road
Foreign study more than ‘hooking up’
This summer, I worked as an intern at a publishing company where one of my main tasks was to weed out the bad book proposals from the good ones.
Needless to say, the stack of rejections was far higher than the other, but one proposal in particular caught my attention, if only because it was so off base.
The author was just out of college, pitching a book about how to study abroad successfully. Because of this column, and because I am always interested in hearing about other students' study abroad experiences, I eagerly began reading his cover letter, only to find the following:
Let's face it: studying abroad is all about hooking up. My book will guide students to the best places to hook up in foreign countries, how to get with guys and girls who don't even speak the same language, and where the best places to meet these people are."
I didn't read any further before tossing the letter into the ever-growing "no thank you" pile, discarding what I could only imagine were the drunken ramblings of a misguided, self-promoting pimp. Ugh!
Yes, I have written about romantic relationships that take place while studying abroad. And yes, it is inevitable that several of the people in a study-abroad group will get involved with locals at some point during the semester. But if your only reason for going abroad is to "hook up," not only are you wasting your money, but you are also cheating yourself of a cultural experience, and you will miss out on all of the life that is going on outside of the bedroom.
There are a thousand good reasons to go on a study-abroad program that have nothing to do with getting lucky. I had always dreamed of going to England, had a pen pal from there and was interested in contemporary British literature. A friend of mine went to study in China after mastering Mandarin to explore her cultural background. This past summer, another friend went to Paris to study law and simply to see what it was like to live in Europe.
Enrolling in such a program is worth considering if you're having trouble determining your career path, you want to test your ability to fend for yourself outside of your comfort zone or if you need to distance yourself from your normal surroundings to gain perspective.
I'm not saying that everyone should rule out romance from a study-abroad program. Maybe you will meet Prince Charming (or William, or Harry) and fall madly in love. But if you're one of the people who would buy a guide about how to hook up while abroad, you will be sorely disappointed if you spend the money to learn only that it's pretty much the same there as it is here.
And if you're the guy who wants to write that guide: If you really believe in what you're writing, you've missed the point entirely.
Joy Uyeno travels frequently throughout the year, and her column geared toward beginning travelers or youths experiencing their first extended stay abroad appears the second Sunday each month in the Star-Bulletin Travel section.