Studying Abroad and Writing: Why Travel Matters

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On an uneven and small sidewalk, my classmates laughed at each other’s silly inside jokes. We walk away from a restaurant only a few hundred feet past Hagia Sophia (also known as Holy Wisdom), a Byzantine basilica completed in 537. In two short weeks, we explored the ancient and layered history of Istanbul. Or was it Constantinople or Byzantium?

The city of Istanbul, Turkey, sits in both Europe and Asia. Many poets and writers have encountered the city over the millenia, including Mark Twain. Situated on the Bosphorus Strait, the Golden Horn, and the Sea of Marmara, its beauty and economic activity attracts a population of over 14,000,000 people!

Through the English department at DePaul,  eleven of us immersed ourselves in Turkish language, culture, architecture, and delicious food. We were required to write a journal entry each day of the fortnight, reflecting on our experiences and memories. Each day presented an exciting moment to write about. From the Grand Bazaar in Beyazit to the bustling streets of Taksim, or riding a ferry up the Bosphorus, Istanbul inspires the pen easily.

This blog post is not intended as an exercise in boasting; rather, I want to convince you to leave your comfort zone and travel abroad. Regardless of whether you are a writer or a fellow tutor, everyone can learn something about the world and themselves by leaving the United States. For tutors, your ability to build rapport with writers will improve when you must communicate between languages and cultures. For writers, experiencing new  environments can cause interesting connections in your mind and allow you to find solutions to creative problems.

The increasing interconnected nature of Earth entices people to travel. As countries develop faster and more efficient methods of transportation, visiting foreign places becomes easier.  In Istanbul, their public transportation card can be used for trains, rail cars, funiculars, buses, and ferries. The whole city felt accessible and fun to navigate. Imagine travelling to Turkey or other places 50 or 100 years ago, and you may realize what a great opportunity traveling is.

Of course, international travel comes with risks and high costs. It would be unrealistic to think everyone can travel thousands of miles. I cannot say I felt  unsafe in Istanbul, as our class formed a tight and protective bond.  One ought to exercise caution and prepare for any long trip abroad, especially if they plan on traveling alone!

Thanks to the efforts of our class’s professors and my classmates (also our wonderful tour guide), we had an unforgettable experience that we all wished lasted longer. I admit it, I caught the international travel bug. I hope you too will adventure and forge wonderful memories across the planet.

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Michele L. says:

    Loved reading about your travels in Turkey, sounds amazing. I agree with the importance of writing while traveling. Not only is it great inspiration, but it something you’ll want to remember for a long time. The second time I went to Spain, I journaled every day and I wish I had done that this last summer while I traveled through Europe too.

    • Donovan S. says:

      Thanks Michele! Traveling to Turkey gave me a wealth of cultural knowledge, not only about Turkey, but about the U.S. It was so fulfilling!

      How was it travelling to Spain again? Where did you go in Europe last summer?

  • Maggie C. says:

    Donovan, I’m so jealous you have traveled abroad. I think you raised an excellent point about how it is valuable to interact with other cultures. As I read that part, it reminded of the CMWR and the opportunities it provides students as well as tutors to learn about other cultures. Cultural knowledge seems to be overlooked in education, and things like traveling abroad and the CMWR should be taken advantage of so that students can gain more cultural/worldly knowledge.