Why study abroad shouldn’t be only about studying

Students learn about what else they can get involved in on campus at the Taste of Annenberg event. Flickr/Creative Commons

Students learn about what else they can get involved in on campus at the Taste of Annenberg event. Flickr/Creative Commons

I was always told that going to college would be the best time of my life. So far it is definitely wonderful, but I haven’t reached a final conclusion on if that statement is true.  

One of the main reasons for this stage being so exciting is that you are at a very special age. You are old enough to do adult things, but young enough to not have all of adults’ responsibilities. Your main duty is to study — which is no small feat — and that gives you a lot of freedom. But in order to make the best of this freedom, having the support of your university is vital.

University is supposed to be more than classes and exams. We are not here only to get ready to find a job. We are here to find our personality and to find our own way of thinking. Finding that is undoubtedly very hard, but as far as I am concerned, I think that USC has managed to do it pretty well, or at least better than the universities I know of in Spain.

You are not a USC student, you are a Trojan. It all starts there. Since Owen R. Bird (I recently found about him and his story is definitely worth a look) gave this name to the University back in 1912, a strong identity started forming. Besides a healthy habit, sport is a great educational tool and an amazing way to unite all students to represent and support their university. If you want to make all these people proud of the place where they study, hosting events like tailgates before a football game is a very effective way to do it — and it’s a lot of fun, too.

However, it is not only about sports. What about this very blog, Troy Meets World? Something like this would not be possible at my Spanish university, since we do not have a newspaper in which it could be published. The Daily Trojan provides stories for students, written by students, and that makes it a unique publication. It contains articles that could not be found anywhere else.

Another thing I love about USC (and many other American universities) is how student associations are fostered. The student involvement fair at the beginning of the semester was astonishing. Obviously there are also student organizations at my home university, but they do not have such an impact. Even though students will and commitment is what really makes an association big, infrastructure is needed as well. The more resources your university gives you, the more encouraged you will be to start up a new project. In fact, things that change the world are not usually created while doing math problems, but when you let your mind free, without restrictions.

I guess that one of the reasons extracurricular activities are more important here is that universities are simply bigger and, therefore, they gather more people (everything in the United States is a size XL compared to Europe, and universities are no exception). Despite the fact that bigger institutions normally have more resources, I think a little bit of perspective and strategy is important too, so I will try to bring some of that back to Spain. In the end, we can never forget that education and involvement at your university, is not an expense, but an investment.