Why I chose not to study abroad

Hi Friends and Family,

Since I am choosing to leave the country for 2+ years and live/work in a foreign country, many people assume that I studied abroad in college, or had similar international experiences, which spurred my desire to join the Peace Corps. Although I have traveled quite a bit, I never studied abroad.

This comes as a shock to many.

I come from an affluent suburb of St. Louis and I attended a top 50 university, which means many of my peers took advantage of study abroad opportunities, and it was assumed I would too. Honestly, until my Junior year of college, that was my plan.

So here’s my story: Junior year roles around and I am completely confused as to whether I want to study abroad. I am having an amazing college experience, I have great friends, I take great classes, I live in the Bitch Palace with my three best girlfriends, and coincidentally, none of those girlfriends are studying abroad. Oh, and my anxiety is out of control. Like I’ve said in previous posts, I have anxiety, and although it is currently at it’s best ever, fall of my Junior year was a different story.

In October of that year, I decide to apply anyway. “There’s no harm in applying,” they say. I apply to one program – a semester in Rome through the University of Miami Department of Religious Studies (I was a religious studies major and this would have satisfied a lot of my credit requirements).

Long application process short, I got accepted.

Here’s what went through my head:

1. It would be an amazing experience, no question there.

2. I love college and I love my friends and I don’t want to leave them. And childishly, I don’t want to risk someone moving into my apartment (and then refuse to leave when I return haha).

3. I’ve already seen the world. I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to travel at a very young age. France, UK, Italy, Greece, Netherlands, Costa Rica, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Bahamas… all before my 20s. This is not equivalent to study abroad by any means, but it means I’m not totally lacking in experiences.

4. At this point in my life I knew I wanted to join the Peace Corps, and I think 2+ years in South Africa is pretty close to study abroad, so I wouldn’t feel awful turning down the opportunity.

5. Do I really want this? I spoke to some people who also applied to the program and they seemed so excited, whereas I was just… neutral. I couldn’t bare to think that I was taking the spot of someone who clearly wanted it more than me. Bottom line: the whole thing just didn’t feel right.

Anyway, the deadline to make my decision came and I still hadn’t made up my mind. So I flipped a coin. I know it sounds crazy, but believe in the power of the coin! It works every time. I’m pretty sure there’s a video out there somewhere of the whole ordeal. I honestly don’t remember if it was heads or tails, but a moment later I was rejecting the offer.

I do not regret my decision and I had a great spring semester. Staying in Miami allowed me the opportunity to graduate a semester early, which allowed me the opportunity to take a job in Miami and continue being a “college student” for what should have been my last semester of college. It also allowed me the opportunity to work on my anxiety and get it to the great place it is today.

That being said, all my friends who studied abroad truly did have amazing experiences and I still think it’s something everyone should consider. It wasn’t the right choice for me, but it could be the right choice for you.

Here’s to South Africa and what will inevitably be an experience to rival all study abroad experiences 🙂


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