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An explanation of why I didn’t go abroad because I feel shamed into providing one when people ask, but also for myself

I was bound and determined to avoid studying abroad. Spring semester sophomore year I had a meeting with my advisor. I stared blankly when she slid a folder, bursting with papers and packets, across her desk towards me. As she slipped it into my hands I glanced at the bold embossed black letters: “Study Abroad Programs.” I opened it and eyed the pamphlets hesitantly. I knew very well I wasn’t going to apply to go abroad. I thought the whole concept was silly. I didn’t want to be some American student trekking around Europe, annoying locals and acting like a pretentious snob. I didn’t want to slack off, running drunk around the streets of an ancient European city, wasting away the student loans that will put me in debt for the better part of my foreseeable future. I was going to stay on campus in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and focus on my classes. I was going to remain level headed and practical. And I was not going to regret it.

Two weeks into my junior year, I was already reconsidering my sophomore year logic. Remaining on campus felt like a desolate existence. Many other juniors (approximately 60%) were gone. Only a few of my friends remained, and although we quickly banned together, life on campus became suffocating. My social media feed overflowed with the newest exciting adventures from best friends and acquaintances alike. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat highlighted the exciting “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunities I was missing out on. Instead of traveling to breathtaking places, exploring idealistic cobblestone roads and looking at ancient art, I was spilling my coffee each day in the Caf and accidently eating an entire bag of chips from the Dden. By the third week I knew I had made the wrong decision. Luckily, I thought, there was still time.

Week three (or was it week four?) my parents wanted to facetime. I thought it was weird, they had never missed me that much. A flurry of doctors’ appointments, chemo treatments and surgeries would define the next six months. There was no way I could have left the country. There was no way I could have even broached the subject. I needed and wanted to be just two hours from home.

The weather got colder, the sky grayer, and my classes harder. Friendships grew and faded, I ate a lot of hummus and I wrote a paper about Mary Magdalene. I wasn’t exactly upset about not going abroad, but I didn’t want to stay on campus either. When I left for winter break a powdery layer of snow had just fallen on the small town of Carlisle. I was delirious with a high fever. I felt weak.

Spring semester came, and a few friends returned to campus. I don’t know that they were happy to come back, but I was happy to have them. Slowly, the Instagram’s from friends abroad stopped bothering me. I felt like I was having just as much fun running around the streets of Carlisle as they were running around the streets of Paris or Rome or London. I loved my classes and I made new, wonderful friendships. I listened to music, I went to gym class, I danced on my front porch. I was happy. I went home when I needed to. I learned a lot about life. I grew. I matured. I came to terms with the “in-broad” experience. I had challenged my desire to go abroad and won.

I was so excited for everyone to reunite on campus for senior year! I didn’t think it would matter that people had gone for a semester or for the year. It didn’t matter when people came back in the spring, why should it matter now? But when senior year started a few months ago, no one stopped talking about the oversees adventures they had embarked on. Everyone asked where everyone else had gone. What exciting place did you live in? What exciting things did you do? Don’t you remember that one time in Venice? Wasn’t that so much fun? I wish I was back there!

Sometimes I wish you were too. I wish I had been able to go. I wish, that as my advisor glided that packet over to me two years ago I had taken her advice. I wish the prospect of studying in a foreign country had incited a spark in me. The same kind of itch that I feel to explore and to see the world now. To eat fresh tomatoes and to dig in the dirt and feel the sun on my face and to hop on a plane to a far-off adventure. I missed my chance.

I feel guilty about it, but I keep replaying that scene from sophomore year in my head. I should have taken it. My eyes should have widened with excitement when I saw the bright red folder. I should have grasped the packet tightly and ran away with it. I usually do not have regrets. I wish we didn’t have to talk about abroad all the time, even in class. I wish I had known. I wish things had worked out differently. I wish I wish I wish.

But do I really?

 

-thoughts from a first semester senior, who didn’t want to study abroad, then did, then didn’t, then did, then didn’t. 

Isabel Figueroa

Dickinson '19

Isabel is a Senior at Dickinson College. She loves finding humor in humanity, old treasures in antique stores, and new ways to eat almond butter.
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