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Sunday, June 23, 2024

The Gator Nation is anything but, thanks to a study showing UF is a top-20 university for studying around the world.

For many colleges and universities, especially those in "college towns," there is a misconception about exposure. If UF is a big school driving the economy in a small town, people wrongly think that its impact is confined to Gainesville, or to Florida, at best.

But if so many students are studying abroad, it shows a degree of cultural awareness; students going to Europe, Asia or Africa know their lives are not restricted by county or state lines. When they come back, they have an entirely new template of experiences for more personal and professional growth after graduation.

My former high school sends a group of students and a few pastors to Haiti every year to build schools, feed kids and change lives.

Every year, without fail, the people who made the trip come back with fascinating stories to tell. But of everything they said, one thing stuck out: Nobody came back angry that they had no TV, Internet or even running water. If anything, it opened their eyes to the immense poverty and disparity between America and Third World countries.

Face it. America is the richest country in the world. Even middle-class students like me have a litany of luxuries most other people don't have.

We whine about not being of drinking age while villagers don't even have clean water to drink. We complain about homework while the uneducated can't read or write.

We have an abundance of clothes in our closets while some wear tattered rags. And all the while, we wander along in life wondering why we're unfulfilled despite our massive wealth.

Simply put, we're both the richest and the poorest people on Earth. When people with less are content with their lots in life, there must be something going on that transcends bank accounts, cars and college educations.

I yearn for enlightenment. Of the few times I wasn't in Florida, most of my trips were family visits to North Carolina. Outside of those two destinations, I made a trip to Puerto Rico, a trip to Chicago and a trip to San Francisco - that's it.

And although I've made only one major move in my life, from my childhood home to my dorm, I want to know something of life other than what is in the South.

I'd like to spend a semester in Germany before I graduate so I can experience another culture and develop my foreign-language skills. I'm taking language classes so I can get around.

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Students could study in places related to their studies, such as an Asian-studies major studying abroad in China or Japan.

After my formal education is complete, I'd like to move back closer to my family. However, I'd still like to take some trips inside and outside the country before my life is done.

It's important to travel for your own personal growth. It's important to know life beyond sunny beaches and football games.

In the long run, there's a lot more to UF than just the F.

Vincent Gagliano is a sophomore majoring in physics. His column appears on Wednesdays.

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