[CAMPUS COMMENTARY]Traveling helps us learn about ourselvesNowadays, many university students think traveling abroad is essential. As demand for overseas traveling rises, ways to travel have become more diverse. Package tours conducted by travel agencies do not satisfy them anymore. Some university students go abroad through programs like working holidays, internships, volunteer service and so on. Reflecting that trend, schools are also supporting students through their own programs. All in all, university students are willing to try any possible way they can to travel.
Why is travel necessary for university students? I don’t think many people can answer this question with confidence. “Traveling is very important!” a lot would say, but many people don’t know what it truly means.
Those who may know, however, have varied answers. Traveling can be a useful experience to get a head start on a job. It can help people gain a wider perspective on the world. It gives people a break from their daily lives. All of these may be right. However, in my opinion, university students should have a different attitude about understanding the meaning of travel: It helps you learn about yourself. My recent trip helped me realize that.
At my school here at Kyung Hee, there is a program called “Report Abroad” for students working for the school press. Student reporters of the university’s English newspaper, Korean newspaper and broadcasting station go abroad together to report about other universities in another country. The travel costs much less than what we would normally pay to travel on our own because the school supports us in many ways. I had a chance to travel to Mongolia during my last summer vacation through that program, an experience which was most memorable. At that time, I thought travel just helps a person learn about different people, regions and cultures. But I came to change my mind.
I traveled with a group of 10 to Mongolia: two professors, three school staff members and five reporters, including me. On the trip, I discovered new character traits and habits I did not know about myself. I was not concerned about them but they were evidently affecting my life and people around me. I did not know that I was sensitive to what people said or that I was shy in front of strangers. To overcome this, I talked to the new “me” by writing in my diary every night. I wrote in my diary before I went to sleep and when traveling by car. It was very interesting and shocking when I read it later.
During the trip I met many people. Sometimes I was awkward, sometimes I was frightened. It’s a trifling emotion that can come in our daily lives. However, because I was outside my country, it came to me as a very unfamiliar feeling. I had to get braver to present myself to strangers. Also during the trip, I came to forgive a person whom I had hated for a long time. I began to have a more lenient attitude about my past memories.
A friend once told me, “We travel to escape our day-to-day life, but travel is a way to live much better than before.” I understood this as: “Through travel, I get to face myself in entirely new ways. Then, I can reflect and gain confidence. Returning to everyday life, I can live better.”
*The writer is the editor of University Life, the English newspaper of Kyung Hee University.
by Kim Mi-ju