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I am sure many of you have taken a leap of faith and applied to study abroad. The application deadline was Feb. 1. If you didn’t, I recommend that you do next year. My two terms abroad, in Spain and Cuba, have been my richest learning experiences at Dartmouth. However, merely signing up for a program is not enough. It is up to you to maximize your time abroad.
Last year, I spent my fall term as an exchange student at the University of Havana, around the same time that you may have been listening to Camila Cabello’s hit song, “Havana.” Cabello’s lyrics do not lie — I am also left longing to return. Havana could not be any more different from Hanover. I don’t presume to know the ins and outs of Cuban culture, but I do have anecdotes aplenty to illustrate some of the differences between life there and life here.
At work this summer, I was asked to write a card to a client’s daughter. She was about to start her freshman year of college. I was flattered that they considered me worthy of dispensing advice. But as I was writing, I realized I was the one who needed to follow my own advice. It is always easy to offer recommendations to others without actually practicing what you preach. The following is an extract of what I wrote to the woman just a few years my junior: “Remember that you are not alone in your uncertainty. No one really knows what they’re doing! New beginnings are scary. I was so nervous my first day. And some of that discomfort lingers, but growth never happens when we are wholly comfortable.”