In two weeks, I will graduate from college.
I will have a degree, but I will also have to leave behind everything I am involved in: my classes, extracurriculars, sorority and two internships. As someone who always has a plan and takes on multiple tasks at once, I am facing the unknown for the first time.
Even after graduating high school, I had a plan: Lehigh.
However, as COVID-19 has made clear, plans don’t always go as expected.
I remember during the beginning of high school, I would repeatedly watch videos and read blogs about traveling. Titles such as “How to Travel the World on a Budget” and “I Quit My Job to Travel the World” captivated my attention. I was set on skipping college and exploring the world immediately after my high school graduation.
My parents on the other hand thought I was losing my mind. They, along with all of my aunts and uncles, may as well have held an intervention for me with the amount of times they tried convincing me to go to college. Clearly, their pleading worked. But what did they say to change my mind? They told me I could study abroad.
Four months in Europe. Living in a country I’ve never been to. Immersing myself in another culture. Visiting new countries every weekend.
Fast forward to the spring of my sophomore year, one year away from my big trip. It was time to apply. I met with my study abroad advisor, got course approvals from professors in various departments and received an approved petition to study abroad in Florence, Italy.
Let me clarify that the spring of my sophomore year began in 2020. Need I say more? OK, if you haven’t caught on, I’ll say one more word: COVID-19.
My dream to study abroad was diminished. Instead, I stayed at Lehigh throughout my junior year, unable to step foot on campus. I had no access to the academic buildings, the library or my sorority house. I couldn’t sit in any cafes to do work, and I completed all of my classes curled up in bed at my off-campus house.
However, when I found out that I couldn’t study abroad, I made sure that I would graduate early and find a way to travel that spring.
Now that I am graduating, this plan has become so blurry. For years, I have been committed to traveling. I know that it’s what I want to do. Why are there doubts in my mind?
Society has drilled into our minds that we need to be doing something, especially when we graduate. We should have a job right away, or at the very least, an internship. If not, then we should continue our studies and get a master’s degree.
In reality, I’ve spent the last few weeks very stressed, tearful and lost thinking about what I am going to do next. Studying abroad in college has a purpose — earning credits toward a degree. Can I still travel without studying or working? Is it a waste of time?
No, it’s not a waste of time. For the first time in years, I feel free. I don’t have to worry about classes, extracurriculars or internships. I don’t have to be in any place and I don’t have to be doing anything.
As of now, my unconventional plan is to travel Europe on my own, and I couldn’t be more excited.
I have decided to find comfort in the unknown. I don’t know where my travels will take me, and I still don’t know what I will be doing after, but I know I will take full advantage of this time.
You are always told to “follow your dreams,” but the way you go about it can’t always be normalized. It’s important to value your life goals as well as your career goals, and for me, that is traveling.