How to Deal with FOMO While Your Friends Study Abroad

I entered sophomore year of college with the sad knowledge that my roommate and best friend since day one of school would be studying abroad in the spring, while I’d be staying on the Boston campus. I knew a lot of people that would be leaving for Europe in the spring, but for the fall semester, I wanted to just pretend I wouldn’t have to say goodbye to anyone. 

Fall of sophomore year holds so many of my favorite college memories thus far: I had a blast living with my best friend, and I was becoming closer friends with a few new people. Forming new friendships made me feel like it’d be easier to go a whole semester without someone I was used to seeing every day at school, but most of those people just so happened to end up being selected mid-semester to study abroad. This was just my luck—I’d found an awesome group of friends that I’d gotten used to doing everything with, but they’d be having some amazing experience in another continent without me. 

Let me tell you, the fear of missing out (FOMO) was real. Some of my closest friends were going to live together at Kasteel Well in the Netherlands, and they’d started planning all the countries they were going to travel to throughout the semester. They’d have a whole life-changing semester without me as I stayed behind in Boston, where my most exciting weekend plan usually tended to be picking which movie I wanted to see at the Loews. How was I supposed to catch up to all the inside jokes, habits, and interests they’d inevitably pick up across the ocean? I couldn’t even rely on a group chat to keep me up to speed because they were going to be six hours ahead. How was I supposed to send funny tweets at 2 a.m., the peak of Twitter humor, when they wouldn’t be able to appreciate the ridiculous hour? I worried that I was going to be left behind in my friend group, and our experiences would be so different that we wouldn’t be able to click together again.

Good news! While the FOMO was rough to deal with sometimes, my friends and I picked up right where we left off when they returned, and I was perfectly capable of surviving a semester without some of my closest friends. Being left out of an experience as big as study abroad can feel disappointing, but a few tips helped me appreciate staying in Boston.

  1. 1. You’ll make other friends (or improve friendships with people you already know).

    It can take a while for me to feel comfortable with someone, so after becoming close to new people in the fall, the thought of trying to do it again after my friends left for Europe felt exhausting. I didn’t want to have to open myself up to new people again. However, not having the people I was used to regularly being with helped me appreciate my relationships with other people in my life. A friend moved into my roommate’s vacancy, and we spent the semester becoming great friends and still live together as juniors. I also came to appreciate my other suitemates, who I got to know even better and spend more time with. It’s not the end of the world that you’ll have to talk to new people in your study abroad friends’ absence. You’ll likely find that you’ve been missing out on some great friendships.

  2. 2. You can make your own adventures.

    No, I wasn’t spending the weekend in Italy and eating the best pasta of my life. But seeing my friends constantly traveling and discovering new things awakened my own curiosity. I found that there was so much about Boston that I could still discover, and having those mini adventures satisfied my need to do something exciting. I went to new museums, took long walks around the city, and checked out new shops. Albeit on a smaller scale, I was happy to break my routines and find new places I liked to go. If there’s a spot you’ve been meaning to check out for a while, why not do that now?

  3. 3. Save some stories for real life.

    FaceTiming and texting are always fun to update your friends who are abroad and vice versa, but sometimes you really just have to be there to see why something is funny. Not every story lends itself to a text format, and sometimes a buffering FaceTime call isn’t enough to share the intricacies of what ridiculous thing that annoying kid in your ethics class said. Each time something big or entertaining happens while your friends are abroad, add it to a list of things to discuss when your friends come home. This is also a great way to reconnect and pick things up like normal when your friends are back from studying abroad. Talking about something that your friends can easily engage with could help answer that overwhelming question of what to talk about first when your friends have been gone for a whole semester, which is forever in college time.

Not being able to study abroad when everyone else seems to be doing it is totally normal. You’re not an outsider for never going abroad—for me, it just wasn’t in my plans for myself, but I still found it hard to overcome the fear of missing out on a great time with my friends. While not being part of your friends’ study abroad memories can be hard, there’s no reason to let it affect your friendship. You can’t do everything with your friends, and that’s okay—the best friendships are the ones that can pick up where they last left off, no matter what happens.

(photo credit: Spencer David, Unsplash)