It’s 26 days until my family and I get on a plane for Italy. It’ll be the first time I’ve ever left North America, the first time my husband has been farther than California, the first time my kids have been outside the Pacific Northwest.
It dawned on me the other day that our seven-week stretch in Europe will be the longest I’ve ever been away from Idaho in my life. Woah.
That realization seems weird — I’m almost 34 years old and I’ve never been away from my home state for more than 10 days! — but I figure it’s also a pretty good way to start this blog.
Our trip to Italy has a purpose beyond pasta, pizza and gelato: getting to know how university study abroad experiences work so I can help my students better understand their opportunities.
When I was a student at the University of Idaho, where I’m now a staff member and instructor, I figured study abroad wasn’t an option for an Idaho kid like me. I don’t want my students to feel limited in the same way. (You can read more background on the About page.)
The Faculty-Staff International Development Award, a partnership between UI’s International Programs Office and the University Studies Abroad Consortium, is making my summer in Italy possible. One purpose of FIDA is helping faculty and staff with limited international experience see more of the world.
Having limited experience beyond home is pretty normal. Americans tend to stick with familiar places.
Almost 60% of Americans 25 years old and up live in the state where they were born — like me.
And the typical American lives within 18 miles of their mom — like me (hi Mom!).
More than half of respondents to a recent survey said they’d been to 10 states or fewer — like my husband.
In 2017, 58 percent of Americans didn’t have a passport — and my family and I were among them.
I’ve decided that rather than feeling weird about my 34 pretty-much-Idaho-bound years, I’m going to focus on feeling grateful that I get a chance to see a new part of the planet.
No one should feel guilty if they haven’t traveled much. All sorts of complicating factors keep people from traveling (and at points have kept me rooted, too) — income, finances, job responsibilities, family responsibilities, age, health.
But when opportunities like FIDA or Study Abroad arise, those who want to travel should grab onto them, no matter their previous experience or uncertainty. I want to help my students and colleagues and others understand the possibilities.
In 26 days (actually 27 — long flight), I’ll take my first step onto Italian soil. It’s a loooong way from Idaho. I can’t wait to find out what it’s like.