Studying abroad is a unique experience that offers opportunities to grow and embrace different perspectives about everyday life. Well, that’s what it’s advertised as. Many students talk about how “studying abroad changed their life” in every conversation they have after returning home. If you don’t agree, they’ll show you pictures of pretty beaches, smiling faces, or a unique animal to try and convince you otherwise. You don’t ever hear about the hours they spent studying in the university library. Studying abroad seems to be more about the adventures you have than how much you’ve had to cram to make up for that perfect weekend getaway. Don’t get me wrong – I love taking a vacation as much as the next person, but if it’s costing me a semester’s worth of school, I think there are better options!
As a second-year English major, it may seem like the perfect time for me to travel the world. I have most of my major requirements done and I’ve completed more than half of a minor. There should be time for me to go abroad. However, I argue that there is more to get out of a major than simply completing it. There are numerous specializations in the English major that could be worth looking into, ranging from American Studies to the Study and Practice of Writing. Each one of these specializations can offer different skill sets to students, therefore making them more marketable to future companies and organizations. Additionally, most of these options are only five courses each. With the English major being only a mere 10 courses, that’s a small price to pay to make myself more marketable. The only thing it would take away is my ability to lounge on the beach.
If what happens “after college” isn’t what you’re worried about, then there’s also the idea that every person has a different personality. For example, I’m currently taking a class that runs for two and a half hours on Wednesday nights. I despise it. There’s something about the lack of structure in the course that ensures that I will be cramming everything in the night before it’s due. However, that lack of structure is necessary for some of my friends. They cannot stand having mandatory classes throughout most of the week and find that if they do work on their own time, they perform better.
Likewise, studying abroad simply may not be right for everyone. I’ve researched program after program at the International Programs Office (IPO) and found that most suggest that you take less than five classes while you’re abroad. This may seem glamorous but some of these classes may only be held once or twice a week. I don’t know how I would be able to enjoy the experience of studying abroad if there are looming deadlines approaching and little guidance on how to meet them. It would be a struggle to balance both at one time.
While I decided to not study abroad, I will admit that I do feel like I am missing out on something. It’ll be hard seeing pictures of friends and classmates in beautiful countries as they experience what could be some of the best times of their lives. But, while they’re away, they’ll miss out on experiences back home. They might not be there for a 21st birthday, a championship hockey game, or some of the little moments that make up our day-to-day lives. That’s a chance they’ll have to take though because as unfortunate as it is, we cannot be everywhere at once. At a certain point, we have to make a choice.
Yet, it is these choices also make us who we are. My decision to not study abroad may have resulted in a few missed opportunities, but there’s more for me to discover in Amherst. And that’s completely ok.