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Little Update, Big Apple: My Semester Abroad…in NYC

It’s junior year. You’re three quarters of the way through your major. You’re pursuing internships that may determine where you end up after graduation. Above all, you’re at a place in your college career where you could really just use a break. Growing up, when I heard the word “college,” my subsequent thought was “study abroad”—to me, the two went hand-in-hand. Every older cousin and family friend of mine studied in a different country their junior spring and had the time of their life. So in my mind, there was no question as to whether or not I would go abroad—the answer was always an undeniable “yes”…until I got to college. 

During the spring of my sophomore year I had a decision to make: was I going to follow the path that I thought was expected of me or was I going to stay at school and “pass up” this opportunity. I would be lying if I said my decision was an easy one. I spent many days making pros and cons lists with my parents, cousins, and anyone else who would listen for that matter. To be honest, it took quite awhile before I felt integrated here at Columbia. I had an extremely difficult time adjusting and ,for a long time, thought transferring was the only solution. Luckily, things really picked up for me my second semester freshman year, and that is when my college experience really began. Why am I saying all this? I already felt like my college years were flashing by before my eyes. There were so many things I hadn’t done. I still had a bucket list full of courses I wanted to take, professors I wished to hear speak, and places I wanted to visit (believe it or not there are still places in MoHi at which I haven’t eaten). I ultimately was not yet ready to leave my home here at Columbia. And, although many of my close friends were off galavanting around Europe, I was prepared to spend my semester abroad right here in NYC. 

Over the past few months, I’ve come to realize that there is such thing as an “abroad mentality.” You don’t need to travel to Europe to give yourself that much needed break. As my best friend and I began to embrace this state of mind whole heartedly (even playfully naming our Facebook albums #feelingabroad), we too learned things about ourselves and the world around us. I decided to approach my semester a little differently: I took some classes that didn’t necessarily fit into my field of interest, but came highly recommended by my peers as courses I needed to take before I graduated. In addition, I took on fewer extracurriculars. At this school, we are surrounded by individuals who fully immerse themselves into everything in which they have some involvement—which is a wonderful thing, to an extent. Sometimes, we need to allow ourselves that break. It’s okay to step back and say “Wow, I’m taking on too much right now.” So, what did I do? I didn’t apply for a spring internship.  I took time away from my assistant teaching job. And, I didn’t take on any extracurricular position that I wasn’t completely passionate about. Instead, I am beginning to explore new passions and go a little outside my comfort zone. I am trying new clubs, new foods, and new hobbies. I am making more of an effort to say “yes” when a friend asks me to check out an exhibit downtown or to go to a basketball game on a Friday afternoon. Because if not now, then when? 

Don’t misunderstand me. Is going abroad a wonderful opportunity? Yes. Will you receive a more cultured and more relaxed semester if that is what you wish to get out of it? Absolutely. Will anyone who has ever studied abroad tell you that it was one of the greatest experiences of their life? Definitely. But, with all that being said, don’t be disheartened if you can’t or simply don’t want to study abroad. There are other alternatives, and you have your whole life to travel. Sure, studying in another country is a different experience altogether, but enjoying your time at college is just as special. So, for those of you who don’t plan on studying abroad, that’s okay! I certainly don’t regret my decision for one second. My abroad semester in NYC is everything I could have asked for and more. 

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