Before I decided I was going to commit to Pacific Lutheran University, I attended one of the open days for perspective students to explore campus and learn about the school.

My mom and I spent the day hearing about how great PLU’s academics are, how small the class sizes are and how much financial aid is available for students.

One thing that stood out for me was hearing about the Wang Center and how many study away opportunities are possible. As images of culture-rich villages, bustling cities and amazing landscapes ran across the projector screen, I had fantasies of myself traveling the world during college.

When I thought it could not get any better, they said the word — Antarctica.  My jaw metaphorically dropped.  I could not believe that if I wished, I could take a class surrounded by glaciers, whales and penguins. Studying in Antarctica is definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity, as is any study away trip.

As we continue on with our lives after graduation, we will be transitioning into new careers, starting families and facing endless financial commitments that put the possibility of travel on the backburner. The luxury of traveling is also not always available to everyone at retirement either.

One thing that I think holds students back the most is the cost of studying away. Trips can range anywhere from hundreds to many thousands of dollars per trip.

This can make almost anyone think twice about spending money earned from summer jobs, asking parents for the money or most of all, more student loans.

It comes down to the students, how intense their desire to travel is and how willing they are to make a financial sacrifice for something they may never be able to do again.

Prioritizing a travel and academic experience over more student loan payments can be extremely difficult. Also finding the time during the year and room in school schedules can prove to be a struggle.

A great thing about PLU is it makes it easy to study away. Advisers try their best to work a desired program into a schedule and match it with required courses.

The Wang Center has scholarships available to help ease the financial stresses on students. Studying away during the semester can occasionally be cheaper than staying on campus for classes. PLU financial aid can sometimes transfer with semester programs also.

PLU is supportive of students studying away and forms J-term and semester programs yearly. The opportunity is handed to students if they choose to reach out and grab it. Having the stresses of travel plans already figured out is a huge benefit PLU provides to those wishing to study away.

I still reflect on the opening day presentation of the Wang Center as one of the many primary reasons I decided to attend PLU. I thought to myself when I made the decision to study away for this J-term that I would never forgive myself If I looked back at this point in my life and regretted not traveling when I had the chance.

We are young and the time for us to take advantage of these life experiences is now. I’ll be going to Rome this J-term. This course not only is relevant to my major in social work but it also covers my Christian religion general education requirement.

The fact that it is taking place in a beautiful and historical city in a country I have dreamed of visiting is the cherry on top. ◼︎

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