Studying abroad guides students through realms of unfamiliarity
By the time this column is published, I’ll have 25 days left in the United States.
I’m not leaving the U.S. to go on a vacation, nor will I be joining the ranks of the military abroad or journeying with the Peace Corps. Instead, I’m studying abroad, a seemingly ubiquitous process that hundreds of students at the University — and around the country — participate in every year.
Hell, I’m going to London, England, a cosmopolitan environment where they speak English. It’s familiar, comfortable and far removed from a dangerous country in political turmoil. I can’t imagine myself feeling unsafe or frightened while I’m over there, but as much as I tell myself that it’ll be fine, I can’t seem to shake the feeling of fear.
Coming from someone who’s lived within half-an-hour of campus for my entire life, the fact that I’ll soon be living in a city of eight million is still daunting for me to fathom. But I’m going to be forced to come to terms with it soon enough.
Maybe it’s my lack of exploration away from my hometown, or the fact that I won’t be able to see my friends or people I work with for the entire time while I’m gone. That frightens me a lot.
I’m certainly not trying to dramatize my situation more than is necessary because I’m only going to be abroad for four months, and, thanks to technology, I’ll be able to keep in touch with my family and my loved ones better than I could ever imagine.
And while I’m incredibly thankful and honored to have this opportunity and chance for a positive experience, it also could be a scary one.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned these past few months, however, it’s that we can’t take things, especially those in the present, for granted. The fact that I’m going to leave my entire life behind for a while has taught me to amplify the importance of each moment, even those which seem ordinarily mundane, such as daily interactions with friends and family.
Even the simplest things such as playing some Madden football in my living room, eating dinner with my parents or walking across the street to visit my girlfriend have become moments both deeply enjoyable and important to reflect upon. There’s just something sweet about that.
This, in turn, has given me a great perspective on time as a whole, and how it’s always changing. I know that sounds vague and obvious, but I don’t think I had a full grasp on this concept until I realized that soon, I’ll be leaving all forms of familiarity.
Our lives are rapidly changing. University, at a base level, is merely a holding area to groom us to be thrust into the real world.
We only have a short amount of time to take advantage of the great relationships, academic ventures and social opportunities that the University setting has to offer. If there’s one facet of preparing to leave the country for a prolonged amount of time has taught me, it is that this period, like every other one in our lives, is finite.
My friends and acquaintances, much like everyone’s, will likely get scattered across the country after graduation due to various career obligations, and thus, this feeling that I’m experiencing for studying abroad will probably become more prevalent for everyone later.
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that college is the best time in all of our lives because it prepares us for the real world; I don’t believe that remotely. I think we, as college students, have some of the best opportunities of anyone, but unfortunately, this means not necessarily remaining in a static place.
The actual process of coming to terms with the notion of constantly moving is the intimidating part.
No period in our lives is infinite. People come and go, opportunities call and separation is a given fact of life. Study abroad has simply been a way for me to realize this pattern in human existence.
I’m sure, somewhere along the line in my time abroad, I will do some more growing up, but I already realize that I’m learning loads about myself and I haven’t even left yet.
Or maybe I just have anxiety problems. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
Boswell is a junior in LAS. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.