Recently, my home university put me in contact with another student who was thinking about studying in Ireland for a semester where I am currently. She asked me whether it would actually be worth it to study abroad for a semester, and that was something I had to think about for a little bit. I tried to think of it as giving myself advice that I would’ve wanted a year ago. In the end, I sent her the following email in response (edited slightly for her privacy):
“It’s a bit of a cliché to say ‘I can’t make the decision for you,’ but it is true that you’ll be the only person who can decide if it’s worth it or not to go abroad.
“That being said, I can take you through my own process of reaching the decision to study abroad and my feelings about that decision now.
“I had a lot of the same doubts about going abroad for a semester as you seem to. I’d be missing out on certain class offerings, different events and experiences (especially in the theatre department), and maybe more importantly, an entire winter and spring term that I could be spending with my friends and all of the people I’ve gotten to know at Middlebury. This last point was mitigated a bit by the fact that the vast majority of my friends were also studying abroad the same semester as I was (albeit in entirely different locations). Still, it still felt like I was going to be missing out on something no matter what I chose.
“I also had a lot of anxiety about whether I would be able to afford a semester abroad, especially since it’s not a Middlebury program and I wouldn’t be able to receive that extra help. Thanks to a scholarship that I applied for and ultimately received, I was able to have a little more confidence to take the leap.
“The main reason I wanted to study abroad in the first place was that it felt like my best (and potentially only) chance to finally travel somewhere other than Vermont and New Hampshire, where I’ve grown up. I know a lot of people who would say that there always would be another chance to travel, especially after college, but honestly, I’m not sure if that would’ve been or will be the case for me as there are some opportunities afforded to students that aren’t afforded to others traveling for work or for pleasure. That’s not to say your situation is the same, and I’m sure if you decide not to study abroad you’ll still be able to make it to Ireland.
“Nearly ¾ of the way through my time here, I will say that it’s quite bittersweet. I don’t regret making the choice to study abroad, though maybe I would’ve found myself at Middlebury thinking the same thing about the opposite decision. Still, I’ve found another little home here and it’ll be sad to leave it all behind again in a month. I’ve made friends with people from all over the world, experienced some parts of a different culture, and joined some fun student organizations that don’t exist at Middlebury.
“I’m a big fan of Midd’s smaller student body, but it’s clear from being here that more students mean more opportunities to find people with similar interests. There aren’t really any clubs or anything at Midd that I’ve felt particularly drawn to from the start, but there were three or four here that I considered joining at the start of the semester. I settled on the Archery club and the Baking Society, and I can say that both have been very different but very fun.
“Personally, I do think I made the right choice in studying abroad for the semester. I also think, however, that I might be saying the same thing even if I chose to stay at Middlebury instead. As long as it was a conscious choice I made, and not a choice made for me by the circumstances, I think I would be able to justify it regardless of the outcome. It is a great opportunity, but it’s certainly not the only opportunity, despite what I said in an earlier paragraph. I guess my advice would be to just make sure you are making the decision, whichever one it may be, and then I’m sure it’ll feel like the ‘right’ one.”
The first picture shows the view outside my window of the prettiest sunset I’ve seen in my life. The second picture shows my view outside the same window of the only snow I’ve seen since coming to Ireland.