Studying abroad is great, but not essential

By JACQUI NEBER | February 15, 2018

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COURTESY OF JACQUI NEBER Jacqui did travel to Italy, but the trip involved more cooking than studying.

I didn’t study abroad during my time at Hopkins. I stayed on campus for all four years and got to live vicariously through my friends posting on Instagram from cities across the globe: London, Buenos Aires, Rome, Sydney, Paris, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, the list goes on. Sometimes I wished I was with them. But at the end of it all, as a second-semester senior, I’m glad I’ve spent four whole years at Hopkins.

I had many reasons for not going abroad. A disastrous freshman spring had left no room in my GPA for grades that wouldn’t transfer back to Hopkins. I had just been elected as Managing Editor of this very newspaper, a year-round position that was contingent on my not leaving for a semester. Above all, I loved my routine at school, and I didn’t want to leave.

Studying abroad is hyped up at any college as a life-changing experience, but staying at school for all four years can be similarly and positively life-altering. I’ve had the best (so far!) years of my life at this school, even in this environment, without leaving the country for a semester.

For clarification: I love the idea of studying abroad. I spent most of my high school life planning on studying in another country in college, dreaming of side trips to other places, imagining the friends I’d make while going through the study abroad experience. Sometimes I look back and still can’t believe I didn’t do it. However, I know I’ll be able to travel in life without having spent a semester abroad. Traveling is a top priority of mine, one I know I’ll make happen at another point in time. I’ve also been lucky enough already to go to a few different countries on high school trips and with my family. These trips have allowed me to understand how amazing a semester abroad could be, and even added to my heartache when I hear about my peers’ experiences.

However, staying at Hopkins for all four years allowed me to build connections with my friends that remained uninterrupted by leaving. I couldn’t have made it through Hopkins without my people, and I’m grateful for every minute spent with them. Four full years isn’t enough, but it’s a start.

Staying at Hopkins has also allowed me to stick with The News-Letter for four years in four different capacities. This newspaper has become my home and its editors my family, and going away would have put a semester-long halt to hanging out in the Gatehouse every Wednesday night. I’m glad I didn’t lose time in this space. It’s become vital to my career path and my happiness.

Most importantly, depending on how you look at it, I spent each semester after freshman spring achieving semesterly GPAs that contribute to my overall grade point average in a positive way. If I had gone abroad, it’s possible that my grades at a different school wouldn’t have transferred into my GPA here. I decided I couldn’t afford that after that crazy spring when I was 19. Staying at Hopkins for all four years was a way more practical decision than I’m known for making. It all worked out.

Hindsight is 20/20. I had a lot of anxiety about not going abroad in the moment — would I be missing out on traveling experiences? Making new friends? Oktoberfest?

It wasn’t necessarily an easy decision to avoid studying abroad. If you’re thinking about going abroad, you might feel some of the same pressure to go and have a life changing experience of your own. Even now, I feel a little sadness every time one of my friends who spent a semester traveling raves about their time in other countries. 

It’s difficult not to feel like I missed out on potential friendships, cities and landscapes I’ll never forget, during those four months that were somehow worse because I spent them at Hopkins. 

The most important thing to realize is that staying here or studying abroad is a very personal choice. You need to weigh the pros and cons of each option for yourself: against your social situation, how you feel about your grades, how you feel about Hopkins. Staying here for all four years isn’t right for everyone, but I promise, you won’t miss out on (too) much if you don’t study abroad. 

Not going abroad allowed me to have what I define as the quintessential college experience: one that I have loved and couldn’t imagine not experiencing. But going abroad might be the thing that lets you have your version of the same good story. The bottom line is, no matter what you decide, know that you’re making the right choice for yourself.

It’s okay to study abroad, and it’s okay not to. Do whichever is right for you.

Jacqui Neber is a senior Writing Seminars major from Northport, N.Y. She is the Opinions Editor. 

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