As I made plans for my final college summer, the expansive months bridging my junior and senior year, I was inundated with school-sponsored events and emails pushing me to spend my summer months in Prague or Rome or Paris or Rio de Janeiro. It seemed a given to so many college students should, at some time, sneak away from campus for an extended stay in some picturesque place. I wish I could paint you a picture of the looks I receive from my friends and professionals when I proudly admit that I have no intention of studying abroad.
Before I explain my reasoning and why you are still a valid undergraduate if you make the same decision, let me dispel some myths that the critics assume as fact.
My decision isn’t rooted in money. I’m lucky enough to attend a well-endowed university that offers study abroad stipends for every student who wants them. My school would gladly give me $10,000 to learn Italian in Rome or study the architecture of cathedrals in Paris. This is true of many universities. In fact, I’ve noticed at my university that there are far more grants and fellowships to cover study abroad opportunities than grants to intern at American companies or do non-profit work in New Orleans or Appalachia as opposed to Papua New Guinea. If you want to study abroad, I have no doubt that your university will help you out.
My decision isn’t because I am a homebody or scared to leave my family. I go to school 700 miles away from where I grew up. I don’t let myself ruminate on the possibility of becoming victim of some foreign crime, because it could happen to me in my own dorm room.
Studying abroad can be beneficial, but it does not have to be a requirement for undergraduate life. Studying abroad is not the only way to know things or expand your horizons. If your education is sufficient, a plane ticket and a passport aren’t necessary. Yes, immersion is a great way to learn a language, but our romanticism of foreign countries and cultures has ruined us.
I can be a successful writer without spending three months gorging myself on bread and wine in Paris. Yes, I can study with a renown Shakespeare scholar in New Haven. I don’t have to travel to London to read a book universally available. Might the text be nicely supplemented by a viewing of a West End production of Coriolanus, sure, but we live in 2016. My options are not limited by staying on campus.
Perhaps my lack of wanderlust is related to my certainty of myself. I’ve never felt the need to go searching for myself. For many college students, going abroad is their first real foray into independence. That is why it is so important to many. Independent students perhaps don’t yearn for this experience. I know I don’t. I, like many others, know my politics, my preferences, my career path, and my relationship in the world. A semester in Istanbul might be interesting, but it isn’t going to generate a new me.
These are only some of the numerous reasons I’ve discussion inwardly and outwardly to come to my decision to not study abroad. Perhaps many of you have chosen to study abroad and you either loved your experience or you didn’t. My hope is that you’ll understand why not everyone wants to study abroad. If you are reading this and contemplating whether or not you should study abroad, take my own musings into consideration with the concerns you have raised. Why are you going abroad? Can you only learn what you’re going to learn in that locale? Are you studying the archaeological makeup of Stonehenge and can only get material evidence on site? Are you going abroad to escape a bad roommate or to meet new people or to see the Eiffel tower or drink a big beer at Oktoberfest?