I don’t know about you, but being shut in my house for over a year has really fueled my desire to travel the world. I’ve always dreamed of traveling and getting away from the bubble I grew up in, but now the thought of getting on a plane and experiencing new people and things has just about consumed my every thought. There’s just so much to see and I want to take advantage of all the opportunities I have to get out there.
Originally, my plan was to study abroad the summer before my junior or senior year, if scheduling and financial aid allowed it. Unfortunately, the pandemic struck and the entire world shut down right before I started seriously checking out all the different programs available. It was a very confusing time: travel restrictions, lockdowns, and mandatory curfews now dictating our time and how we spent it. Disappointed that I would have to push back my plans, I began to transition into the pandemic lifestyle that I think we all honestly thought would only last a few months. As the pandemic lasted longer and longer, my dreams of studying abroad were getting dimmer and dimmer, until finally, the vaccine was approved for mass distribution.
The more people that got vaccinated, the more my hope that I would still have the chance to study abroad during undergrad increased. As a Language Studies major studying Mandarin, I’m hoping to visit China and take some language immersion classes to improve on what I’ve learned here on campus. Needless to say that many of the programs I had been originally looking forward to in China had been cancelled or changed in the year or so since I had last researched them. And now that I’m about to enter my last year in college and have to wrap up the requirements of two majors, I was pretty much back at square one in terms of my study abroad plans.
I started off by scheduling a preliminary meeting with a study abroad advisor from the UCSC Global Learning center. I had a conversation with her about whether it was still possible or not for me to study abroad with such a short timeline between now and graduation. Though my advisor offered me a few different options, none of them really fit what I was looking for. She told me that attending a program that best fit my interests was really only possible if I decided to postpone my graduation date. At first, I was really opposed to this—missing over a year of interacting with my friends and classmates just to not graduate with them either? It was out of the question.
As I kept meeting with other advisers, however, I slowly realized that this is it. After next school year comes around and I finish my major requirements, my time in undergrad is done. If I really wanted to make the most out of my college experience and do all the things I had planned to do, postponing my graduation a quarter or two was a small price to pay. Especially when taking into consideration all of the advising, financial aid, and sheer variety of programs that are available just by being an undergraduate student, the benefits truly outweigh the costs in my case.
Though it’s definitely been a process to come to this decision, and I know it might not be the right one for everyone, I’m here to tell you that after living through such uncertain times it’s worth the risk to pave your own path. The “normal” pre-covid world that we were used to is gone and if I’ve learned anything from this past year it’s to be flexible in the things you can’t control and demand the things you know you deserve. Though I might’ve lost my entire junior year of college to the pandemic, I can still make the effort to reclaim the time I have left in undergrad and make the most of it, even if it doesn’t look the way it’s “supposed” to.
I’ll leave you with this: underclassmen, if you’re even considering studying abroad at some point, start your research as soon as possible (and I mean, like now, this is not an “I’ll do it eventually” situation) !! Upperclassmen, if you’re like me and trying to squeeze in a last fun trip before you graduate but still want to make sure you’re getting your credits done, check out advising asap! Depending on your major and what credits you have left, you might still be able to make it happen. The study abroad advisors really want to help students fit these experiences into their schedules, so starting the conversation as early as you can will help you weigh all of your options. Take it from me, someone who kept putting off researching these programs until it was almost too late, acting early will be worth it.