Traveling Abroad as a Senior


Before coming on this trip, I had a lot of hesitations and fears of regret. I thought that being a “super senior” or a 5th year senior abroad would be hard in different ways than being a sophomore or junior studying abroad. I feared being left out seeing my friends thrive in their post-grad lives together, finally getting settled with stability and having their questions answered about the real world. I envied my friends being able to begin building their own careers, paving various paths and figuring out their future while I was “in school” for another year. But, I was wrong. 

Why traveling abroad as a 5th year senior was the best decision of my life (so far).

  1. Experiencing Senior Year on Campus: I was able to experience my senior year on the physical campus. This made me feel like I wasn’t missing out on anything and more importantly, I got to experience senior year with my friends who were seniors. I was able to feel like I had a full four years on campus, living as a college student, something that adults are always telling me I will miss. 
  2. Learning from Choices your Friends Make Post-Grad: While I was nervous to not be living the post-grad life alongside my friends, I realize now that post-grad is something that lasts a lifetime. I will be able to go back to the states and make the same decisions that my friends are making right now- just a year later. And, I get advice from my friends who have a year or two of post-grad life under their belt. I’d say, I got the better end of the stick. 
  3. Post Grad Isn’t That Fun: Talking to many of my friends, I’ve learned that post-grad isn’t what it is made out to be and so it is okay that I am prolonging the “inevitable.” While it can be exciting to build your career, it can also be hard to find jobs or it can be discouraging to be rejected from jobs however many times. It is also a whole new environment to be living further from friends, having different schedules, and not having the same weekend routines that you had in college. Your social life takes a complete 180 with no warnings and can be a hard adjustment on top of your new job and new living situation.
  4. Career Paths: Sometimes being abroad teaches you what you want out of life whether that is a career path or your own passions. But, as a 5th-year senior, I can begin applying these ideas to my future rather than waiting another year or so or perhaps forgetting about certain options or details. Going to various embassy briefings allows me to consider options as a diplomat or I am introduced to NGOs and nonprofits working on different and important projects around the world. Rather than saying I will look at applying for these opportunities in a year or two, I can begin looking into them right now and envision how my life could be. 

But, I will say, there are some downsides. Paying for an extra year of education is really tough and adds to the stress of your piling loans. But, because of these anxieties, I was proactive about applying for scholarships. Receiving the FEA scholarship is not only a huge help financially but it is an opportunity for me to write and blog and therefore reflect on my experiences. Without FEA’s encouragement (and requirement) to write blogs, I think it would slip my mind during this rollercoaster of an experience. Without the time to reflect, I wouldn’t be gaining as much out of this trip as I am now.

While talking to some seniors on this trip (for help on this post), other seniors had some similar sentiments. With their own hesitations studying abroad, whether that was feeling FOMO on what would happen on campus the last year with their friends or feeling sad saying goodbye to friendships that they worked hard to develop, they still said it was worth it.

Some seniors said that sometimes they feel like they are missing out on a regular Friday night with friends from school, but they are reminded that these friends are doing the same exact things that they did when they were all on campus. One of the seniors found solace in getting more experiences while studying abroad his senior year instead of going to the same on-campus coffee shops that he normally goes to on a daily basis. He said that even if he feels he is missing out on some days, he knows that he has his whole life ahead of him to make those memories later and instead he is making different memories that are introducing him to new friendships and new opportunities. 

The seniors on the program also noticed that their friends who are on campus their last year are beginning to feel restless and ready to graduate but all of us seniors (both regular and 5th year) are nowhere near ready to have this journey abroad be over. It is nice being able to truly enjoy all these moments rather than rushing them and hoping for them to end soon.

The other day at a “Monk Chat” we were told: a minute changes an hour, an hour changes a day, a day changes a week, a week changes a month, a month changes a year, a year changes a life, and a life changes the world. While a million inspirational things came to mind when the Monk said this, I also thought: This year abroad truly is changing my life and will continue to change my life even as I feel bored in whatever space I create as home when I return to the states.

Studying abroad as a senior culminates your sense of what it means to be in college. After already knowing what it feels like to be on a college campus every day with a daily routine, you’re able to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself one more time as the world becomes your open textbook and never-ending campus. It is a perfect wrap up of the past 3-4 years in school and solidifies everything you have learned through the form of experiential learning. What a way to finish up your college years, the years you are supposed to look back on as the best 4 years (in my case 5) of your life. I am so glad I didn’t let my fears and hesitations hold me back from this opportunity.

Mongolia is a textbook with a rich history that is often overlooked. It is a country that I will forever hope to spend more time in.
When our classroom was at the DMZ, it was hard not to take a few pictures.
Learning about Kansai Culture, the streets of Kyoto inevitably became our classroom.
A kindergarten graduation in Thailand that my host family took me too. They have so many years ahead of them!
In just two months, I will officially be done with my undergrad and exploring the possibilities my future holds!
This textbook looked fascinating!