Ask a fifth-year: Should I study abroad?

Jacob Horn

Dear Jacob,

Have you ever studied abroad? And would it be worth my time to do so?

-Crimson Baron

The short answer to that question is no. But you didn’t come here for a short answer, now did you?

I never had the time or funds to study abroad. There was always some interesting class that I would wish to enroll in every term. Or, more likely, they were classes I had forgotten that I needed to complete my gen. ed. requirements.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t study abroad. You’ll probably learn more from your experiences away from this campus than you’d think. Lawrence’s academics serve as a nice starting point for your journey into the world of learning, but you still need to pierce the bubble eventually and learn how to interact with reality.

As I said, I’ve never actually studied abroad, but one time I went on a two-week tour with a band I was in with old high school friends. Not even close to a fair comparison, but I’ll equate this to studying abroad for the sake of this article. Traveling the U.S. makes it seem like an entire series of foreign countries if you know where to go. What follows is a list of various lessons that I learned in those two weeks that I would not have learned if I had stayed on campus.

1. Never agree to be paid in hookah. It may seem like a good idea at the time, but you will soon realize that hookah will not be accepted as legal tender at any gas station.

2. Be wary when dealing with smooth talking Cajun men. They will use their quick talking abilities and incomprehensible accents to trick you into buying things you had no intention of purchasing. You may enter his store with the intention of buying some gumbo but you will leave with a porcelain elephant and a bottle of unexpected lemonade.

3. Know what you’re getting into when you accept an invitation to sleep in a stranger’s house. Most of the time it beats sleeping in a stuffy van with six sweaty college students, but there are times when that claustrophobia-inducing van seems like a godsend. For instance, if that house is also a venue, make sure that your host doesn’t invite his friends over at 3 a.m. to jam on the drum set located in the next room. You will not get any sleep.

4. Don’t listen to the stereotypes. People from New Jersey are wonderful. They will give you free pizza and wondrous treats known as “Tasty Cakes” for no reason at all.

5. In relation to the New Jersey issue, do not leave your car to pump gas. This will lead to incredibly awkward arguments with the gas station attendants. You may think of yourself as competent enough to pump your own gas, but they will assure you that you are not.

6. If you agree to drive 9 hours in one day to get to the next show, make sure that the compensation is suitable. If you were promised a home-cooked meal, pray that it doesn’t end up being hot dogs and Hostess treats.

7. When visiting New York or any other major city, be sure to pick up a souvenir to commemorate your stay. Instead of getting something tacky like an “I love NY” shirt, strive for something unique. The day before we visited New York, Michael Jackson had passed away, so naturally every single street vendor was selling t-shirts depicting the prince of pop with the word “DEAD” scrawled across the top.

8. Don’t make dead Michael Jackson jokes in front of people. They will most likely be fans of his.

9. When your van breaks down and you are forced to walk to the nearest hotel, the mechanic on duty will tell you that it is less than a mile away. Get a second opinion. It will be five miles away. And uphill. And 98 degrees outside.

Hopefully you can apply these rather general lessons to your daily life. And, as always, feel free to send your questions my way at jacob.e.horn@lawrence.edu.

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