Iannelli: Travel drives student growth

Iannelli argues that students should get out and see more of the world.

Jerry Iannelli

Jerry IannelliAfter discussing spring break plans with my fellow classmates before taking the week off last week, I’ve come to the conclusion that Temple students don’t get out enough.

Each and every one of my professors was eager to discuss where his or her students would be spending the coming break, expecting impassioned responses about weeks spent in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico that all parties involved will agree to forget about after March 16 rolls around and one of their buddies has been kidnapped by a South American drug cartel. Instead of spending the week in Mexican prison like the real college students, the dangerous, dangerous nutcases that surround us all on Main Campus seem incredibly eager to “hang out with their cats,” “watch NetFlix” and “sleep a lot,” three responses that provoked some incredibly sharp pains in my heart.

Where is the collegiate spirit of adventure? Why waste your young years cooped indoors spending entire days listening to Kevin Spacey’s fluctuating accent in “House of Cards”? Traveling at our age is integral to growing up and being a balanced, well-rounded human. It breeds confidence. After spending a week last winter break traversing the entire state of Pennsylvania armed with only a few toothbrushes, one change of clothes and two sleeping bags for three people, I have yet to encounter a situation on Main Campus that has sincerely messed with my psyche. I am an emotional rock. Five essays due next week? Not as bad as the prospect of accidentally getting lost in Erie, Pa., with a dead cell phone in the middle of the night. Have to speak in front of a lecture hall filled with 200 students? Wasn’t worse than getting lost in East London and having to hop three different night buses in order to get back to my flat at 3 a.m.

There’s a reason the media portrays shut-ins as terrified, closed-minded human beings.  Challenge yourself next time you get the luxury of a few days away from class or work. I promise it’ll pay dividends. Or at least teach you how to replace a flat tire on the side of I-76 as cars narrowly swerve around the vulnerable meat sack that is your body.

Additionally, leaving your comfort zone forces you to try out new walks of life that your friends and parents in Philadelphia aren’t going to give you. I didn’t know that I loved destroying my arteries by putting french fries on my steak sandwiches before visiting Pittsburgh. I would’ve never realized how overrated driving is and how much I loved taking public transportation before living in London for a summer.

Some other things that I adore but never would have sampled had I spent every day on campus for the past three years: lamb shwarma, British pubs, public parks, long highway drives, calico cats, rental bicycles, mayonnaise on french fries, small apartments, loose tea, photography and travel blogging. Most of these things are integral parts of my life now.

The incredibly small portion of the world that I’ve trailblazed on my own has turned me into a smarter, more open-minded human being and I wouldn’t trade any of my experiences, good or bad, for 10 more minutes spent sitting outside of Barton Hall using Temple’s campus-wide WiFi while the sun fails to penetrate Philadelphia’s seemingly-perpetual winter cloud cover. It pains me to see students, with an entirely free week at their disposal, spend so much time cooped up in their rooms, steadfastly refusing to see the world. Pay your friend for gas and force him to take you to Washington, D.C., for the weekend. Take Megabus to Toronto and couch surf for a few days. Scare your mom and take the next flight available to Costa Rica for cheap. Just get out of here. Please.

The moment I realized that traveling on my own had really changed me for the better came about a month ago. After much debate, I realized that I’d lose my mind if I remained in Philadelphia this summer, visiting my best friends at the Fresh Grocer deli counter and trying my hardest to forget that the air conditioning in my apartment only works one day a week. Without much hesitation, I signed myself up for the School of Media and Communication New York Summer program, which guaranteed that I’d take classes in New York, but made no promises otherwise. I was given no housing arrangements, no internship placement and knew zero people going on the trip with me.

And I wasn’t scared at all.

Jerry Iannelli can be reached at gerald.iannelli@temple.edu or on Twitter @JerryIannelli.

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