“Did you have a nice trip?” asked the overly peppy flight attendant as a I boarded my plane in Heathrow Airport. I laughed as I spit an overly aggressive “No,” at the poor woman who had no idea what could possibly be wrong.
Earlier that day, I had been standing in a dorm room in South Kensington wondering why was I there. It had been fewer than eight days into my study abroad experience, and I had no clue why I was there. So I packed my bags, got in a cab and came home. I walked into Heathrow and bought a one-way ticket back to John F. Kennedy International Airport.
This wasn’t nearly as crazy as it may sound. This was not the sporadic action of an immature girl who was homesick or afraid she wouldn’t make friends abroad. In fact, this was the most adult decision I think I have ever made in my entire life. I was standing in my dorm room thinking about how stupid and pointless to my career my study abroad classes were. I was thinking about how they didn’t count toward my major at all and would result in me having to stay an extra semester or possibly an entire fifth year in order to actually finish my finance major and graduate. Sure it would be fun. Who doesn’t want a three month vacation? But it seemed like such a waste of my parents’ money to do that and such a waste of my own time. So I asked myself why was I staying somewhere for an entire semester that was not a smart financial or personal decision for a supposedly mature individual?
At first I was very afraid what people would think. Everyone says studying abroad is supposed to be the best part of your college career. You’re supposed to mature and find yourself and that this was the only time in your life that you could travel and live abroad before settling into real post-grad life. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how stupid that was. I was my own person and I could make my own decisions. I’ve never believed in settling into some boring job I hate and getting married by 25, like other people I know. I’ve always just done what I wanted, unapologetically. In a world where girls that say and do what they want are often called a female dog, I had never before stopped to care what other people were doing or thought I should do. So why was I starting now, 3,000 miles away from home in a cold, rainy city?
So I just didn’t. I packed my bags and left. I emailed Lehigh and got myself into new classes and moved back into my sorority house the day after I landed in New York. I took the classes I needed and am now on track to graduate in four years with all of my friends.
Following the trend of conformity shouldn’t be an issue past middle school, and yet as we age into adulthood, when we are supposed to be making decisions for ourselves, so many of us find our choices are not actually ours alone. We join Greek chapters and get thrown into the stigmas of Greek life and stereotypes of individual houses. We take classes and practical majors because society tells us to go out and get steady jobs with a good income so we can support our families with our 2.5 kids. We’re told to act a certain way and say certain things so we can be considered normal or nice.
Being confident in your decisions is the true sign of growing up.
It’s about not letting other people’s thoughts and feelings affect you in negative or unconstructive ways. Lehigh has a problem where we all care too much what other people think about us, be it tangible things like our grades or the way some chapters view other fraternities and sororities. It’s easier said than done to try to become confident enough in your own decisions to be able to tune out the static that is everyone else’s opinions, but it will free you and make you happier in your life. If I can get on a plane by myself, I think anyone can find the courage within themselves to be their own confident, independent person.