As a rising junior and aspiring world traveler, I felt a lot of pressure to study abroad.
Until a few months ago, I pictured myself spending my junior year in Italy. I even took four semesters of Italian so that I would be familiar with the language. But then, as my sophomore year progressed, I realized something: I wasn’t ready to go abroad. And that’s ok.
The transition to college wasn’t easy for me (that’s an understatement). My entire freshman year was basically devoted to trying to stay afloat. Luckily, sophomore year was much better. I found people I clicked with, started my own club, and decided on a major that I love. I had finally hit my stride.
Then, study abroad applications came out. Suddenly, the idea of living in Italy for a year felt all too real, and not in a good way. So naturally, I put it off. I didn’t fill out my application until 11:50pm before the midnight deadline. That should have been my first clue that I wasn’t as psyched about going abroad as I thought.
After sending in my application, I began to seriously picture my life abroad: living with a host family, taking classes at an Italian university, and being in a completely different country than just about everyone I care about. For some people, this picture is thrilling, but I was overcome with a feeling of dread. Here I was, just getting comfortable with life on campus and I was going to have to leave? I didn’t want to do it.
Still, it took me a while to come to terms with that–the fact that I actually didn’t want to go abroad. I like to push myself out of my comfort zone. I consider one of my biggest accomplishments to date to be that on my 17th birthday, I flew halfway across the world to China with 12 complete strangers for a teen travel trip.
How could a girl who did that not want to go abroad? I wanted to be that girl, the adventurous world traveler who knew what she wanted and didn’t have an ounce of fear.
Then I realized, it’s not all or nothing. Just because I’m not ready to abandon the life I’ve made on campus for something completely unknown doesn’t mean that I’m playing it safe, or that I’ll never be a world traveler. In fact, it’s a pretty brave choice.
It takes major guts to be honest with yourself. If I had gone abroad, it would have been for all the wrong reasons: to be like my friends, to prove something to myself, and because it was “the plan”.
Instead, I’m choosing to be compassionate with myself, and accept that now just isn’t the right time for me. Maybe after college I’ll spend six months backpacking across Europe, or a year teaching English in Spain. But for now, I’m staying on campus. It may not be the most glamorous choice, but it’s the right choice for me.