why I'm ☞ not ☜ studying abroad
hello there, gentle viewers
(where is “gentle viewers” from? It sounds weird but I KNOW it’s a phrase…)
Everyone here at the University of Richmond found out last week what program they got into for study abroad and it’s put in me in a somewhat uncomfortable position because…
I will not be doing the typical “junior year” study abroad experience.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m wicked happy for everyone that’s like a little kid on Christmas right now…they’ve kind of won the jackpot with an experience most people won’t get. But, my empathy only goes so far, especially when other people in class inevitably ask me, “So where are you going?"
What follows is I tell them I will be staying here in Richmond next year and then I immediately find myself defending my choice. Most people listen and get where I’m coming from, but I definitely feel a little bit of judgement being the--what feels like--minority in my class who is staying in good ol’ US of A. If I didn’t feel any judgement, I wouldn’t be rapidly running through my spiel of reasons for not going and how I’m quite content with my decision.
But the truth is, a year ago I probably would have been one of the more judgemental listeners when hearing someone say they’re gonna opt out.
This is what I would have been silently thinking:
“How can you not take this opportunity when it’s so accessible in college? Don’t you think you’re gonna miss out when all of your friends are gone, off doing incredible, life-changing things together? Are you that sheltered and close-minded that you don’t want to push yourself to learn about the world?”
Yup, pretty harsh. But ever since I can remember I was determined to travel as much as possible. Especially when, in high school, you begin to think about college and all of the opportunities that await you… up until this past summer, I was convinced that I would go for the entire year, choosing two exciting and exotic locations that not many students would choose to explore.
And after my first year of college and realizing that I did not vibe with the culture that comes with it, I wanted OUT… going halfway around the world was a no-brainer.
But, as first semester of my sophomore year rolled around and people began discussing their study abroad plans, I realized that I didn’t feel the need to go; I preferred to just keep going where I was at UR in good ol’ US of A. That took a long time for me to accept. It felt like I was going back on everything that made me who I was--adventurous, outgoing, and curious.
After more justifications entered my mind over the course of the semester, it made things pretty clear to me that not studying abroad was the right move for me. Here’s why...
FIRST―I have been extremely fortunate to have traveled basically my whole life with my equally as adventurous family.
SECOND―I’ve done the whole “really living in another country.” I even did a shortened, 6-week study abroad program this summer in Sevilla, Spain.
I kind of feel like my travel bug is satisfied… for now.
THIRD―This year, I’ve finally been starting to really like my life here. I feel like I’ve made a home for myself that is all mine and always exciting.
FOURTH―There is nothing I love more about college than the academic and extracurricular opportunities I’ve been able to find (possibly why I feel a bit out of place sometimes at college, ironically…). I don’t wanna take a whole semester to take classes somewhere else that I am confident do not compare to what my school offers.
FIFTH―Also, with my new major finally letting things fall into place about my future and my passions, I’m too excited to just get up and leave when I’m just starting to figure out my dreams.
SIXTH―Finally, after all of the finances that go into college AND living off campus ON TOP OF moving and living in a totally new place with totally different, unforeseeable expenses… if I’m not 100% into the idea of studying abroad for a whole semester, that is a lot of wasted money.
QUICK TIP TO MY FUTURE TRAVELERS:
Expenses come at you dangerously often and unpredictably. Plan that in your budget.
So, all of that convinced me that staying on this continent was actually the right choice for me at this time in my life. And no, it is not because I am a homebody and afraid to try new things. That couldn’t be more opposite of the truth. Studying abroad in college is an incredible opportunity and while it may be life-changing for some, I bet the majority just have a good time living life without a legal drinking age… or one that is actually enforced.
Either way, you can’t go wrong as long as you’re paying attention to what you need, not necessarily what you want. Because what I’ve found is that “what you want” is often just “what you think you want.”
Safe travels and safe non-travels, everyone. Hope you find a way to be happy wherever you are.