Being a Globe Trotter – Anyone Can Do It

July 28, 2013 Kristance Harlow
Yangchen Choling Monastery, Spiti Valley

“All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination.” [Earl Nightingale]

I always wanted to study abroad, but it wasn’t an easy option for me. When I was in my second year at university, some friends and I were talking about studying abroad and I said, “Oh I’d love to do that if we can find a way to afford it, especially now with the new $750 per semester fee!” Everyone agreed that the new fee was ridiculous but the other response was, “Those schools are cheaper.” I said, “Yeah, but many overseas schools don’t give financial aid to students who are study abroad students.” There was sort of an awkward silence, it wasn’t over getting financial aid because I know most students here get financial aid, but it was over the thought that overseas schools are often dramatically cheaper than US schools and I was the only one in the room who couldn’t afford it. While “dramatically cheaper” is not entirely true due to higher fees for foreign students, I knew that without financial aid I still wouldn’t be able to afford it. It created a distance between my friends and me, one that I didn’t intend. It was just a discussion about going abroad but the conversation resulted in a highlighted class divide. You can get around these sorts of things when discussing your own money, like not being able to go out to eat because you’re broke as a joke. I knew that if I decided I really wanted to study abroad I would find a way, but that’s just it. I would have to “find a way” rather than just decide to go abroad. It was only later that a really good friend of mine said she understood and it was just that her family didn’t get financial aid so that comment of “those schools are cheaper” seemed appropriate. I also understood that, but it still made me feel like shit when no one could relate.

Look for Loop Holes

I had already gotten my first taste of international travel the year before, in 2006, when I traveled and volunteered in Ireland. I received a $2,000 scholarship from my local Rotary Club when I graduated from high school. The tricky thing with scholarships is that they often go directly to your school of choice and go against what you would need to take out in loans and can even just be factored into your financial aid package, basically it can end as a wash unless it’s a significant amount of money. Luckily, the Rotary scholarship had a clause that allowed the recipient to get the money directly once you could show proof of having covered your fees for your first year of school. What did I do with that money? Ireland, baby! Volunteers for Peace (when they were based in my hometown) hooked me up with the Sunrise Organic Farm in Ireland. I combined being a tourist with volunteering and spent a month on the island, falling in love with travel. I was the first in my immediate family to travel overseas (although certainly not the last, my sister has been quite the globetrotter herself).


Be Impulsive

The final day was the saddest day.
Became sisters or ajee with these ladies.

I sometimes make impulse decisions…okay, I often make impulse decisions. I can’t stand lollygagging around, and unless I’m feeling particularly shy or awkward I do not play the noncommittal game of “I don’t know, should I? Do you want to? Umm…” One of the best impulse decisions I’ve made was to apply for an international internship when I was going to Mount Holyoke College. I found out about it the day before it was due and begged my supervisor to write me a last minute recommendation. I fired off a letter about how badly I wanted to teach abroad and how a full scholarship was the only way I’d get this kind of opportunity. And hot damn, I got the scholarship which sent me overseas to India for the summer in 2007. It was a once in a lifetime experience, but it was in no way parallel to any of my friends’ study abroad experiences. They were touring multiple countries, partying around the world, and most of them were learning a second language. I was sleeping in a cave, going to the bathroom in a hole, washing in a bucket, teaching at a Tibetan Nunnery, in the middle of the Himalayan wilderness. Amazing, life changing, and I would do it again in a heartbeat…but I was working (not playing) and ill with some very serious digestive issues the whole time.

Research Your Options

Archaeology Department at
Durham University
Some of Harry Potter was filmed
at Durham in the cloisters

I finished up my studies at a different university and didn’t study abroad, because I was always hearing how impossibly expensive it would be. When I graduated from college I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I thought I’d work and get an apartment. Just like most liberal arts graduates I had a difficult time securing full time employment. Unsatisfied with my options, I looked into graduate school options. In my usual manner, I looked for out of the box options. I didn’t want to commit to school for more than a year, I didn’t want to be anywhere I’d lived before, and I still wanted to travel. That’s when I stumbled on Study Across the Pond, which is a free program that helps students from all over the world apply to and attend schools in the UK. There are no fees to apply to most universities in the UK, through Study Across the Pond you get personalized (and free) help on your application, most Masters degrees are only a year long, and they cost less than a two year degree from most US universities. You can still take out federal student loans, and obtain scholarships from schools abroad. It worked for me and I got my Masters degree in Britain and even had enough money left over from loans to travel to other countries in Europe.

Reorder Your Thinking

I make mates with statues
all over the world.
(Newcastle, England, UK)
Another statue friend
(Tallin, Estonia)

If you are stopping yourself from pursuing your dreams because you have already decided it’s impossible, you are thinking about everything in the wrong order. First you must think about what you want to do, then do your research on how to do it, then you must do the proper preparations, and then you have to go for it. If you don’t try you will never know. Are there difficulties? Absolutely. Are there things you really might not be able to make happen? Yes, and I blame no one for that. We all have troubles that can bring us down (god knows I’ve had my fair share). Approach your goals with pragmatism and don’t tie all your happiness to them, but just know that it is possible to step outside of the box and make the impossible come true. I’ve never been a carefree traveler who didn’t have to worry immensely about money, I’ve never stayed at a resort (rarely in nice hotels), and I can hardly afford vacations, but I still move around the world and plan on seeing as much of it as I can. If I can do it, I bet you can too. Don’t think about how you can’t achieve what you want, you must change your thought process and think about what you want and how you can.

I even pal around with statues in Washington, DC.

“Where you come from does matter — but not nearly as much as where you are headed.” [Jodi Picoult]

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  1. Anonymous on July 28, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    I like your article Kristance. <br /><br />-Lindsey Litchfield

  2. mplanck on July 28, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    What an upbeat post. Good advice for anyone who&#39;s at a crossroads in life, facing key decisions and wrestling with self-doubt and/or other problems. You are wise to do your globe-trotting while you are young and unattached. Once married (or in a committed relationship) and especially once you have children and household debt…those decisions are difficult and sometimes impossible. So as

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