Staying Local: Junior Year at Colgate



I came to Colgate to study abroad.

Wait, that came out wrong. What I mean to say is that a big part of my decision to come to Colgate was due to the excellent reputation of the school’s study abroad program. As a prospec­tive student with an international interest, and as someone who couldn’t shut up about her previ­ous two experiences abroad, I was already lookingforward to my future semester overseas.

That being said, I didn’t actually end up spending a semester abroad during my four years at Colgate. When I went to the study abroad fair my sophomore year, I quickly real­ized that the cost of the program for my major was way out of my price range.Thus, junior year found me back at Colgate, minus half of my friends. Now, let me be clear, I don’t mean to say I got the short end of the stick. I’ve had a lot of wonderful experiences at Colgate that I would have missed out on had I been abroad. I don’t know that I’d be willing to exchange them for a semester abroad, but I do sometimes regret missing out on the opportunity to discover who I am in an environment so vastly different from Colgate or from my small hometown.

After all, most of the people I know have come back from their semesters abroad and spoken af­fectionately of the city or cities that they claimed as their own, that they proudly explored and came to know almost as well as little Hamilton, NY. What’s more, most came back slightly more grown-up or more confident in themselves after having ventured in the big ol’ world alone for a little bit. Most of the time, new friend groups are also formed on these trips. While I recognize that friend groups tend to shuffle during junior year regardless of whether you stay behind at ‘Gate or travel elsewhere, so many important memories are made in a group with which you travel; it’s only natural that strong bonds are formed while abroad. After all, you share so many new experiences, whether it be conversing (or trying to, at least) with strangers in a foreign lan­guage, eating snails, octopus or some other unex­pected concoction, interning for a foreign company together, etc.

As merely one student from the 32 percent of the Colgate population that doesn’t study abroad, however, all of my friends’ fond remi­niscing just makes me wonder whether or how I would be different had I studied abroad. Would I have been exposed to something that inspired me to pursue a certain career path, as one of my close friends was? Would I have finally become fluent in a language I studied for eight years? Would I have become a bit more comfortable with travel­ing alone? What cultural traditions could I have picked up? What other people would I have gotten to know?

Again, I know that I’ve been able to have so many experiences at Colgate that I would have missed if I had broken up my time on campus by studying abroad. I’ve been able to see all of my friends come back from their semesters over­seas and catch up where we left off, all the while staying acclimated to the Colgate environment (and therefore enjoying the perk of being able to dish out any gossip from the semester my friends missed). I’ve had extra time getting to know un­der and upperclassmen, and I’ve been able to take on positions in organizations that I couldn’t have held otherwise.Nonetheless, the Colgate study abroad program gives students an extraordinary opportunity to take the first step out of the Col­gate bubble while still surrounded by Colgate faculty and students, and while simultaneously getting credit towards one’s major or minor. While I fully plan to spend an extended period of time abroad post-graduation, it won’t be through Colgate’s integrative program, and I probably won’t be able to use it to get credit for anything. I’ll be on my own without the Colgate safety net.

At this point, there’s not much sense in look­ing back at the irony of a senior studying Inter­national Relations not being able to go abroad. Life works in mysterious ways, and I’m sure that as long as I get to make my way around the con­tinents and have the chance to immerse myself in a culture (or hopefully, cultures) very differ­ent from my own, any wistful, “grass is always greener” thoughts I harbor will quickly disappear.

Come May, I’ll simply be leaving Colgate with a different set of experiences than I original­ly planned, a set that includes four Spring Party Weekends and a speech by Tony Blair in lieu of an Oktoberfest celebration in Germany.