I’ve always kept a running bucket list in my head of things I was looking forward to doing during my college experience. But when I came to Lehigh, I had one major goal: I wanted to study abroad.
I thought that studying abroad was something everyone did during their junior year, and I couldn’t wait for it to finally be my turn. I had always dreamed of studying in Europe, with no hesitation. I never thought that when it actually came time to apply to programs that I was going to debate even going at all.
I started college in August of 2019, and since then I have had only two “normal” semesters at Lehigh: the first semester of my freshman year and the first semester of my junior year.
Taking remote classes during the pandemic, I felt like I had missed out on so much time at Lehigh. I was scared that studying abroad would make me miss out on even more.
The thought of leaving Lehigh for another semester, when it felt like so much had already been taken away from me, seemed crazy.
That being said, choosing to study abroad was a very difficult choice.
I was essentially deciding between returning to a typical semester in Bethlehem, or experiencing a different kind of semester in another country. I could stick with something comfortable or start fresh in a foreign place.
The unknown excited me, but I came to know what I would be missing out on and suddenly I was at a crossroads.
When making my decision, I had a lot to consider. Where would I study? Who would I go with? Would I have more fun traveling on the weekends, or spending time with my friends in Bethlehem?
What ultimately helped me navigate the difficult choice of leaving Lehigh for a semester was focusing on all of the things I was going to gain from the experience rather than what I was going to miss out on.
I knew that studying abroad was going to give me the opportunity to meet new people, travel the world and experience something unique. And when would I have that chance ever again?
Once I shifted my mindset, the decision became much easier. Though there are times now where I do feel like I missed out on a normal college experience, I know that I gained so much during my time in Barcelona.
When it comes to studying abroad, people often overlook the fact that you have to say goodbye to a lot more than just your family and friends. You have to say bye to familiarity as well.
While my semester abroad was unique, because it was the first time since COVID-19 that students were allowed to study in another country, it was also different because many people decided not to go abroad.
I expected Lehigh to be exactly the same way it was when I left, and almost imagined that time stopped as soon as I left. Upon returning this semester, I realized that things didn’t simply just stop when I boarded my flight to Europe. Things are always going to change and be different. Yet these changes aren’t always bad ones.
Now that I am back for my final year at Lehigh and my study abroad experience is in the past, I realize how important it was for my college career. There’s a different kind of learning that you get from dealing with the uncomfortable, and from venturing out and trying something new.
Although it sometimes feels weird to be back in Bethlehem, I know that I gained so much through my travels. It was definitely worth it.