September 17, 2014

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Maybe Abroad Is an Answer

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To the Editor:

Re: “SUSSER | Is Going Abroad the Answer?,” Opinion, Sept. 17.

In Wednesday’s column on going abroad, Philip Susser ’16 brings up some good points about the climate at Cornell and things to consider when deciding to go abroad or not. However, Susser fails to identify some of the intrinsic value that comes with an abroad experience.

Like Susser, I was a premedical student in the College of Human Ecology when I struggled with the decision to go abroad during my junior year. Like any pre-medical student, I had all of my semesters tentatively planned in order to balance my requirements for medical school with other coursework, an especially daunting task considering that I studied policy analysis and management, not a major particularly conducive to completing medical school coursework.

I ultimately decided to study public health while abroad in Geneva, Switzerland and the experience thoroughly enriched my academic experience. Much of what I learned through studying and interning has proven immensely useful even years later while in medical school. However, I gained much more from my experience that I could not predict.

There is a value from taking time to live in a different culture and immerse yourself in something foreign. The simple act of living and traveling abroad broadens your perspective and provides you with insights as to how other people live. This is useful for any student but especially true for someone wishing to pursue medicine. Even in Buffalo, New York, I come across patients from all over the world. The ability to appreciate their struggles living in a new country allows me and other students who have spent time abroad to connect with them on a level our other peers simply cannot.

The idea that going abroad is a glorified vacation dismisses all that one can learn, both academically and personally. If a student goes abroad for the right reasons — academic pursuit, professional opportunity — the experience can actually be beneficial in the work/grad school application process. It can provide value to your education regardless of your major and goals. Yes, you will travel while abroad, but you will also learn and gain a global perspective that will be with you for the rest of your life.

Dan Kuhr ’13