The Study Abroad Dilemma

During my senior year of high school, specifically the fall of 2018, I had several college-related variables on my mind. Did I really need to apply to that one school that I had to take a plane to? Or how about that school that didn’t have a major I might want to study? Or what about how safe the campus is? The list goes on. 

Throughout these deliberations, something I neglected to consider (among many others) was the idea of studying abroad. I did not necessarily ignore the question of if I would go; I knew I would, of course, as any senior in high school pre-pandemic may have thought. I just did not truly care to explore what the process may look like at different institutions. They all must be pretty similar, right? 

Over my pandemic-ridden sophomore year, I had pretty much concluded that I would never, ever study abroad, and honestly, that was not something I was particularly sad about. I never had the life-long dream of studying in Paris or Florence that a number of my peers did. Nothing truly seemed to draw me overseas, so when the “opportunity” presented itself as what seemed to be a worthless semester away from my already shortened college experience and time away from my closest friends, my obvious response was to ignore it. I figured I could just go in the winter or the summer if for some reason I found myself having caught the travel bug, which I didn’t think was likely. 

Credit: Pinterest

The idea of legitimately traveling abroad first entered my mind during this past summer. My family’s non-stop pestering both hindered and brought about this shift in desire; with every comment, I was more resentful of losing what felt like so much of my college experience and made me reflect deeper on this notion. 

In my eyes, they didn’t get it. My fifty-something-year-old parents didn’t understand that I had already lost an entire year and a half of on-campus living, dining hall hangouts, and club involvements. I have amazing friends, am enjoying my classes and extracurricular involvements, and was saddened by the idea of having to hit pause on the life I built at Lehigh over the past two and a half years. I feel like I just started hitting my stride, how could I let that go now? I am not particularly sure. 

My dad told me again and again that his biggest regret from his time as an undergraduate was not traveling abroad. But, again, how could I give up one semester willingly after grieving the loss of the past three? 

Honestly, I realized that the world is so much larger than Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Don’t get me wrong: my time at Lehigh, so far, has been the single most amazing thing to ever happen to me. As crazy as it sounds, I simply can’t relate when people explain the disappointment they feel for college not being the perfect four years they dreamed of, because for me, it seems to be (in the least peaked-in-college way possible, of course). 

I came to the realization that I didn’t want to go abroad to Europe (for the first time in my life, may I add) for just a couple of short weeks over winter break that would feel reduced to a vacation. I also did not want to use my summer, which I decided I would rather fill with a part-time job and hopefully an internship. Taking classes over either summer or winter break is not necessary for my current credit standing, and just simply not attractive to me. I decided that the spring semester was the only legitimate option for me personally. 

When people ask me if I am definitely going abroad in the spring, I still say, “Probably? Maybe? I’m not sure.” But, then again, I also spend a minimum of an hour a day online shopping for my European adventure and researching the must-sees of London.  

Even absolutely adoring my school, I can’t let myself refuse a possibility I didn’t even give myself the chance to appreciate. I often wonder when again in my life will I be able to live with my closest friends, worry-free (enough), and just be able to experience the joys that are college. With that being said, when again would I get to travel overseas with one of my dearest and closest friends and get to just live? I can’t even picture a world outside of Lehigh, which is definitely not a good thing. Pushing myself to expand my horizons may be slightly painful and extremely nerve-inducing now, but I hope that in just a few short months, I see the fruits of my decision. 

I am excited to get to live in an apartment-style building in Kensington and walk the streets of London with new friends I find there. I am excited to go to museums, theatre performances, and experience a new culture. I am excited to travel to other countries in Europe and explore the world I have such a shelter view of. I am, most of all, nervous, but somewhere inside of me, I am excited to get out of Pennsylvania and experience something else. 

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