I’m not going to Duke University

Luke Sallmen - India


August 2, 2016

Not this year, anyway.  Next fall, I’ll be glad to represent the Duke Blue Devils and learn how to be a college student. But first, I’m taking a gap year. And no, before you ask, I didn’t choose to do so because Malia Obama is doing it. I didn’t elect for a year off in an attempt to flee Donald Trump’s possible Presidential reign, either.  

I did so because an opportunity like this is too good for me to pass up. Here are the top six five reasons why I’m excited to pack my bags and travel to (very) sunny India.

 

It’s an opportunity to see the world

I don’t know about you, but I don’t get too many chances to travel across the country, let alone the world. I haven’t gotten to travel to Europe, or Asia, or Africa, or see any of the other three continents besides the one I currently live on. In other words, I have yet to experience much other than the beautiful United States of America.

While our country certainly is great, it’s not the only exciting and wonderful place on Earth. There are 195 countries in the world, and the United States is only one of them. I refuse to believe that ours is the only one worth experiencing.

 

It’s a chance to see the world differently

I’ll never forget the first time I traveled out of the country. In August 2010, I left home for a short-term mission trip to Mexico. There, I learned that Mexico differs from the U.S. in several ways:

1.Their concept of time is a little more relaxed than ours.

Designated times and appointments are generally nixed in favor of just “letting things happen” – times are more like guidelines than strict, immovable commitments.

2. The poor are much worse off financially.

For the first time, I saw how bad some people really had it. I saw homeless people, sick people, people that live in cardboard shacks – and learned to appreciate the luxuries and privileges that I have.

3. Despite their situations, the people are much more thankful.

Even the ones with less. It’s no coincidence that “Muchas gracias a Dios” (many thanks to God) is repeated countless times in every Mexican prayer. No matter the situation, they are grateful for the many blessings in their lives.

Now, these things aren’t representative of all of Mexico, but they are what I experienced. By going someplace else, I realized that there are many different ways to view life and our place in it.

 

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

A whopping 5,900 miles separates Pune, Maharashtra from Fredonia, Pennsylvania. I’ll be away from home for nearly eight months. The sheer distance (as well as time) will make it a lot harder to keep up with my friends and family living here in the states. That doesn’t mean I won’t be with them in spirit, though. The time spent apart will help me appreciate the great people I currently have in my life – you guys – and love you even more.

 

Donald Trump could be the next President of the United States

 

Learning other languages is awesome

Fluency in another language is highly underrated. Imagine all the things you could say about your friends, neighbors, or boss with them none the wiser! Jokes aside, knowing a second language makes you smarter, more social, and gives you better job prospects. It’s one of the coolest, most beneficial things anyone can do for themselves. It’s also one of the main reasons I’m excited to live in India for such a long period of time. Living there for eight months will help me immensely in learning Hindi – and I’ll get to reap the many rewards of bilingualism.

 

It’s good character building

Living so far away in a country that I’m unfamiliar with will present a whole host of things to get used to.  Aside from the bowel adjustments that will take place in the first few weeks, I’ll have to get used to tons of other unexpected things. Different customs, different schedules, different social norms – it all adds up to a lot to keep track of. I’m sure there will be plenty of times that I embarrass myself or otherwise demonstrate that I’m a young, naive American. But learning to push through my mistakes and rely on myself will add to my grit and remind me not to sweat the small stuff. And what better place is there to learn not to sweat than India? 

 

Luke Sallmen