Column by Amelia Piecuch
Piecuch is a senior international relations and environmental policy major and can be reached at
For every senior, the main topic of conversation is post graduation plans. Nowadays, most of my conversations begin with, “What are you doing after graduation?” Although this question is expected, these are still terrifying words that seem to be on repeat this semester.
There is a lot of pressure for graduates to get a “real job,” a job that includes benefits and vacation days. Portraying options like traveling or teaching English to appear as only suitable back up plans. Yet, I say no thanks to corporate America … at least for now, and here’s why:
First, the best time to travel is when you are young. Follow the advice of my favorite travel junky, Anthony Bourdain: “If you’re 22, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel, as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them, wherever you go.”
We have our whole lives to sit behind a computer, in a cubical, working a 9-to-5 job, and not know what season it is outside. What other time in our lives will we have no children, no major responsibilities and the liberty to take large chunks of time off? There’s no better time to see the world than now.
Second, there are the many obvious and wonderful benefits of going abroad. The amazing food. The beautiful scenery. The wonders of the world. Experiencing new cultures. And seeing new things. The world is such a big place, and we take up such a small part. Traveling helps you understand where you fit in the big picture.
Third, there are various career benefits. Experience abroad shows employers that you are adaptable, conscious of global issues, aware of the bigger picture, willing to take risks and able to be put in tough situations.
Spending a year abroad doesn’t have to mean some crazy “Eurotrip.” It could mean teaching English, doing volunteer work, doing research or even jobs or internships in another country.
There are unlimited options for students and recent graduates all over the world and in every field imaginable. It all depends on where you want to go and what you want to be doing. What better way is there to gain experience?
Lastly, do not let money be what deters you from going abroad. The biggest misconception about traveling is that it is always expensive. Obviously, some places are naturally more expensive than others, but if you plan right, your money can go a long way.
And, unknown to most is that there are many programs and scholarships out there for people to go abroad. Peace Corps, Fulbright and the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program (JET) are all programs that pay for recent graduates to go abroad to work, travel, teach or do research. If travel peaks your interest, then there is always a way.
Next year, I will be doing research in Chile thanks to the U.S. Student Fulbright Program. I couldn’t be more excited about my next step, and I believe it will prepare me just as well as sitting in a cubicle.