Leaving Kenyon for a Year

My decision to go abroad for the full year was complicated and multifaceted. When I arrived at Kenyon as a freshman, I knew for sure I wanted to study abroad during my college career. I have always loved traveling, and the opportunity to truly settle in a foreign location and embrace the culture, language, and classes there sounded ideal to me. However, I originally thought I would only want to travel during one semester at most, and potentially only take classes abroad during the summer. I was determined to make my four years at Kenyon as wonderful and special as I had heard from other previous Kenyon students and what I thought they could be.

Prior to coming to school, I found myself inundated with the notion that college would be the best four years of my life. This theme was perpetuated in almost all coming of age novels, movies, and songs. These sources ranged from talking about wild parties and crazy adventures to having best friends and meaningful relationships. Facebook and other social media platforms perpetuated these ideas, as all the college students I know only posted their highlights from school, portraying college as never-ending years of fun. My family and other adults I encountered also confirmed these notions, as they often said that they would “give anything to go back to college” and “had the best times of their lives.” This may have been an attempt to soothe my nerves about starting school, but it had a significant impact on me.

After hearing all of these positive opinions on college, I thought I wouldn’t want to be away from Gambier any longer than a few months. I was banking on loving every second of my time here and making friendships that would last a lifetime. Instead, I have to admit that college was a bit of a letdown. Although I found myself loving my classes and coursework for the first time in my schooling career, I didn’t find my “place” at school very quickly. My freshman year was a series of ephemeral friendships and joining clubs that I enjoyed, but didn’t feel extremely connected to. Sophomore year fall semester went fairly downhill very quickly, culminating in a low point when I was unsure whether or not to return to Kenyon for the spring semester.

It was during the fall that I was supposed to begin researching my study abroad options. Although I had previously been positive that I would not be traveling abroad for the year, a Kenyon-specific program for my major caught my eye. I had heard others speak of it previously, all of whom enjoyed their experiences, but I figured it wouldn’t be the right thing for me, as it was a full year abroad. As the fall semester wore on, my interest in this program grew. By winter break, it was my top choice of three programs, and the only one I fully researched.

I decided to return to Kenyon for the spring semester after much anxiety and hesitation. Surprisingly, and with a significant amount of effort, the new semester was a major improvement from my previous time at Kenyon. I grew closer to friends I hadn’t spent much time with, joined new clubs, and became more involved in activities I enjoyed. However, it came time to officially choose my study abroad program. I was able to assess my options in a more objective light this time around, as opposed to viewing the full-year option as running away from Kenyon. It took considerable thought to reconcile the fact that I did still want to attend this program for its other significant benefits, as opposed to simply choosing it for maximum time away from Kenyon. Once I made the decision to enroll in this program, my semester took a significant turn for the better. My friendships grew stronger and I began to enjoy my time at school. It was hard to tell if this was in any way related to knowing it would be my last months on the hill for a year, or if my hard work actually paid off. However, I have grown comfortable with the decision I made to leave for a year, not because I am running away, but because I choose a program that is right for me. Although I never thought I’d say it, I am excited to return to campus for my senior year.

 

Image Credit: Feature, 1, 2, 3