The Broader View of Going Abroad

Deena Mueller

Before Christmas, many sophomores need to make decisions regarding where they’ll spend next year.At Colgate, studying abroad seems standard.Sixty percent of us do it at least once!Colgate is known for its outstanding study groups in places everywhere from Scotland to Australia to Venice.Not to mention the added bonus of avoiding an upstate New York winter, and escaping the confines of Madison County for a semester.Why wouldn’t you go abroad?

The ramifications of attending school off campus for a semester are minor.It simply means that there are fewer juniors than any other grade.However, as the day approaches when students start jetting off to European universities, the land down under, and internships in D.C., many students realize there are negatives sides to their study abroad plans.

From early on in my Colgate days, I had a study abroad plan.I knew where and when I wanted to go. Now as the application deadlines draw near, I’m getting cold feet. I’m starting to realize that socially, financially, and academically a semester abroad is going to be a challenge.

Until the beginning of this school year I was still adamant about doing both semesters of junior year overseas, but I’ve changed my mind.I will only go abroad one semester.I justify this by saying that it would be nearly impossible to double major and go abroad a full year, and that’s true.However, in the back of my mind I know that social concerns have heavily influenced my choice. Will I grow apart from my friends if I’m gone all year?Will I return senior year feeling left out. I have junior friends going abroad next semester; come December I won’t be ready to say goodbye to them forever!Even just leaving for one semester, I know some things will change.

Granted studying abroad, and even college in general, is a once in a lifetime opportunity. And first and foremost it’s suppose to be about education.Theses decisions should be based on what friends are doing or how I think it might affect my social life. But still, the risk of straining important friendships has factored into my plans.

Also, as a domestic student, I will have never been so far away from home for such a long time.As I considered a program in Moscow, I realized that to catch my family at home I’d have to call at 4 a.m.! And there’s no quick, cheap or easy way to get from Europe to Chicago.Only an absolute emergency would warrant a trip home. Some students had the unfortunate feeling after arriving at Colgate that they’d made a mistake going to that school.They felt like they were in the wrong place.If I go overseas and then realize I made a mistake, there’ll be few options.

As with anything, going abroad comes with sacrifice.If I go abroad one semester, it means I must sacrifice a whole semester of opportunities here at ‘Gate.Missing the second semester entails losing a season on ski team, not being here when seniors graduate, and a year without Spring Party Weekend.If I go during the fall, I’ll miss college football, Halloween just won’t be the same and I’ll miss out on great fall color.But in the end, I’m sure it would be worth it.

I am not advocating against studying abroad.I firmly believe that it is a priceless, pleasurable opportunity.Never again in my life will I be able to spend four months traveling across a foreign continent.And why not go now when I’m young and healthy, and without serious responsibility?It will be an eye-opening experience to see what life is like in other places, to partake in another culture and to have unique chances.Study abroad is less about the study and more about the being abroad. It will definitely be a defining element of my college experience.

Don’t be dissuaded if you’re going abroad; just think about it and realize there will be consequences, though the positive consequences will probably outweigh the negative ones. All I’m saying is that the decision to study abroad, like the applications for it, require time and thought.