Studying “Abroad” In America

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Scrolling through my Instagram feed this past semester has been like glancing into the pages of a European travelogue. Friends from high school and college are riding in gondolas in Venice, sipping wine beside the Eiffel Tower, dressing up and attending the opera in Austria– some are even bungee-jumping into gorges in Capetown. It looks exciting and romantic from my state-side perspective, but surprisingly I’ve been experiencing little to no F.O.M.O.

Unlike just about every junior in college, I’m not studying abroad this year. I had no strong desire to sign up for abroad programs when the time came around. I did think about going to info-meetings held at the end of my sophomore year just to see what they were like, but instead I stayed in my room and watched Parks and Rec on Netflix.

Eventually the deadline for applications passed. My roommate was accepted into her program and immediately started to chart out what she would do with every moment of her spare time in Europe. Even though I had been uninterested in the whole process from the start, I surprisingly found myself feeling a little jealous of her. I didn’t have that same passion to explore like so many of my friends, but listening to my roommate talk about the trips she was going to take to neighboring countries, I couldn’t help but feel like I was missing a major opportunity.

Maybe I am missing an opportunity, but after that brief moment of regret, I haven’t looked back once throughout my whole year of studying non-abroad. Left pretty much alone—only contacting my friends in Europe through sporadic Snapchats and Buzzfeed articles posted on each other’s Facebook timelines—I’ve been forced to learn about myself. Among other things, I’ve figured out that when left to my own devices, I will eat an entire sleeve of Oreos in one sitting.

I’ve also figured out that I love meeting new people and having a wide, diverse group of friends to talk to or eat lunch with beyond just the girls I’ve lived with since my freshman fall. Staying on campus this past year has made me forge new relationships while also strengthening older ones. Somehow, even with so many people I love living thousands of miles away, I’ve managed to have one of the most fun and fulfilling semesters of my college career. I’ve also spent a lot of my grocery money on Oreos.

It’s also given me the chance to explore some really great opportunities around Boston College. I’d like to end up living around BC when I graduate, so expanding my network here seems to be the wisest choice for someone who currently has few job prospects. Since I’m not spending half of my free time stalking my roommate’s younger brother’s hot new college friends, I have a lot more time to do productive, career-oriented work. I’ve found new jobs and taken on new extracurriculars. I’ve also made time to sleep. It’s certainly not overrated.

Sure, not all of it has been good; with so many people abroad, I’ve found myself losing touch with classmates that I once considered to be really good friends. It’s hard to watch that dreaded friendship-drift take place, but it’s better to learn who my true friends are before our parents snap those fatal group graduation pictures in our caps and gowns outside in the quad. My senior year can be spent with people I expect to really keep in touch with, not just the girls I’ll smile with on the first day of freshman classes and on the last day of senior week, never to speak to them again.

With everything I’ve learned about myself this past year studying in America—not Vienna, Paris or London—I know there are a few things I’ll never really get to experience. My Instagram feed will never look as exotic as my travel-savvy roommate’s, with pictures of me strolling beneath the Arc de Triomphe or bungee-jumping off foreign suspension bridges. I’ll also never know what it’s like to hop on a train for a few hours and find myself in Italy for an afternoon eating real pizza, the kind they cut with scissors, covered with real cheese and tomatoes. Sure, that’s something that one day I might regret, but the personal growing experiences that I’ve had here make up for it.

I swear pizza really is better here, anyway.

Senior studying English at Boston College. Will always be found wearing cat socks. Still searching in vain for the world's best mac and cheese.

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