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Sunday, May 19, 2024

You're here. You've made it back to Gainesville, and some of you are here for the first time. That's great. Now get the hell out of here.

No, really. Get out of Gainesville, get out of Florida, get out of the U.S. Go study abroad.

What are you waiting for?

I'm a fifth-year senior who decided to take on extra debt and delay graduation for the opportunity to study in Berlin, Germany, last spring. It was the best decision I ever made.

I got to immerse myself in a completely different culture and work on my foreign language skills.

I dealt with everything from grocery shopping in a different language to walking to school in the snow during a transportation strike.

I watched "The Simpsons" in three languages.

I traveled to five different countries and drank beers from all of them.

I swam in the Baltic Sea - naked - on a day when the water was a chilly 46 degrees.

I made friends who live all over this country, and now I've got a couch to sleep on in at least 10 states.

And I still managed to get good grades.

Study abroad experience looks great to graduate schools and employers, especially in today's global markets. It matures you as a student and as a person. It's a way to see the world. I've got friends who have done all different programs: some who have spent six weeks in London and China, and some who went to Chile, Paris and Australia for a semester. One of my friends even spent an entire year in Namibia. There is a program for you out there.

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So what are you waiting for? And don't try your lame excuses. I've heard them all. As someone who has studied abroad twice and is considering a third stint, I'm here to rid you of all your reasons for not leaving the country to experience what's out there.

You may whine about how expensive it is to study abroad. Well, almost everyone at UF receives or qualifies for some sort of financial aid. In the 2006-2007 school year, nearly 95 percent of in-state undergraduates received a Florida Bright Futures Scholarship. If you study abroad during the academic year, you'll still get Bright Futures.

You can apply other financial aid to the cost of your program, too, and there are numerous scholarships you can apply for, whether through UF or other sources.

You might think you can't do it because you don't speak any other languages, but there are programs without a language requirement. It's also a great way to take care of the language courses you need to graduate. There's no better way to learn a language than to be surrounded by it.

"I don't have the time!" you say, exasperated. That's funny. Neither did I. I'd signed a form for my double major that said I'd be done in May 2008, but here I am, finishing up my last semester. And I'm not going to lie - part of my reasoning was to be here for another football season.

In the end, I'm sure you don't need convincing. I promise you will never regret a decision to go abroad, but you might regret it forever if you don't.

Jessica Holland is a senior majoring in German and Economics.

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