As a campus tour guide for a major L.A. university, people basically foam at the mouth to hear about the fabulous foreign adventures they think I have experienced solely because I am a college student, and college students study abroad… duh.
Well, I didn’t study abroad. And yes, it makes me a college freak of nature; a college unicorn.
In a world where I cannot open Facebook for even 10 seconds without being visually bombarded by hundreds of European study abroad photos everyone is posting, I have no regrets and no shame in having stayed at school for all of my six semesters so far. (A note about study abroad Facebook photos: THEY ARE ALL THE SAME. Seriously, you are not the first person to post a photo of Big Ben or the Coliseum, but really).
Here’s my philosophy: you only get eight semesters in college, a number that sounds vast. In reality, it’s not vast at all! In my mind, I could not justify leaving my university for five months. In the hyper-sped-up college world, five months is a huge chunk to miss out on. Friends, classes and jobs will all move on and change significantly while you are away.
For individual reasons, you chose to make a college your home away from home for four years with no return after graduation…Europe will always be a hop (or, you know, a flight) across the pond. Now is not the only opportunity to travel! People who think this way are severely limiting themselves. It’s similar to those who believe college is the best four years of their life and nothing following will ever compare. College is great, but there is so much potential for the rest of your life to be filled with joys and successes as well.
Of course, I see the value in studying abroad. Lasting friendships, a change of scenery and memories of a lifetime were all super appealing to me as well. For a lot of students, a study abroad program may be a good excuse to travel, and I am a huge believer in traveling in general.
But I see the value in waiting as well. I want to go abroad not under the pretense of school, but as an exploration of true freedom. I want to go when I am able to do anything I want, to get lost with nothing pressing or stressful to return to in the States. I also want to go when I feel I can manage my money better, so I don’t come back screwed and broke (although most say it’s worth it).
The bottom line is this: you will be okay if you don’t have the opportunity to study abroad. It’s okay if you feel yourself not wanting to travel to another country right now. There’s nothing wrong with you or me, and we are at no disadvantage. The desire to travel will not fade as you get older, and there will be opportunity and relationships that allow for wanderlust throughout life.
Everything life has to offer does not have to be experienced in the four years you have at school, but there are only four years to experience everything college offers your life. For some, leaving their college home is not the right choice, and staying behind could be one of the best things they ever did.
Do you agree with this Campus Circle writer? Leave your comments below!