For many college students, a goal of their college experience is to spend at least a semester studying abroad.
It is such a popular choice that as a prospective student of a university, high school students will look to see what study abroad opportunities a university offers and how feasible it is with their course of study.
When I was looking at colleges, studying abroad was something in the back of my mind, a possibility of something I could do in my four years of college, but not a make or break aspect of my decision of where to attend college.
I consider myself someone who likes to stay close to home and do the things that are familiar to me. I say this even as someone who has traveled internationally before and also made the decision to go to a college all the way across the country from where I am from. Taking the time to readjust to a completely new place is not something that is super appealing to me and the thought causes my anxiety levels to rise.
However, now that I am in college and entering my junior year, probably the most popular time to study abroad. My level of enthusiasm and interest in studying abroad has increased. In my Sophomore year, I talked a lot about the opportunity with family members, friends, and mentors and everyone I spoke with encouraged me to take the leap.
They all say there is no other time in life where you have the flexibility to just pick up and leave for 4 months to go live and study in a foreign place. They also mentioned the opportunities to learn about myself, my area of study, and a new place and how much growth would allow. Their arguments were pretty convincing.
I have also seen a lot of my peers studying abroad. In this digital age of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, my generation loves to post and share and brag about the places they are and what they are doing. Because of this, I have seen a lot of amazing photos, and digital storytelling of how amazing a semester abroad is.
The pictures don't lie either. Once I talk to my friends who return from their travels, they all have amazing things to say about their experiences and wish they were still abroad as opposed to being back on campus.
The other thing I have found that has helped changed my mind is I found an abroad buddy. When my mom studied abroad in college, she and a close friend did the same program. I liked the idea of having a companion to take this leap with but wasn't sure I would be able to find someone.
But I have. Coincidentally, one of my closest friends also was interested in the same program, during the same semester. Once we found this out, we hung on to each other, motivating the other to research and apply. Now having a buddy, I am less anxious knowing that I can bring along someone I know and who I can share the experience with.
So because of this, I have changed my attitude towards studying abroad has changed from "Maybe I'll study abroad" to "I am thinking about studying abroad" to "I am planning on studying abroad the spring of my junior year" to "I am applying to be abroad in the Spring of my junior year."
It feels a bit surreal saying, "I am applying to be abroad." It has also been surreal unpacking my room as this fall semester begins thinking about how instead of being settled here until May, I'll be taking it all down again in December.
There is a bit of fear of missing out on the things that will happen when I am not on campus. I'll have one friend with me while studying abroad, but I don't just have one friend. There are a lot of people I am going to miss while abroad. There are also lots of organizations and activities I'll have to put on hold for a bit.
But I am also getting more and more excited. I am excited for a break from the routine of what my life is like on campus right now. It's great, but I am also looking forward to having fewer responsibilities and obligations when I am abroad. Right now, I am involved in so much, I often don't have time for myself. I hope that while studying abroad I can prioritize myself and relax a little bit more.
My friends often report back that the academics while studying abroad are light and quite frankly the idea of having a break from academics and extracurriculars the semester before I start my senior year sounds like such a welcome relief.
Right now, there are feelings of anticipation, of anxiety, of excitement, and I am a bit overwhelmed. But I am going to make this happen and I am looking forward to seeing what I can accomplish in a semester abroad. I am proud of myself for taking this jump and having a change of heart towards a once in a lifetime opportunity that I very easily could have just looked over.