Reflections on studying abroad

Amid the frenzy that was Hurricane Sandy, I heard that I had been accepted to the study abroad program I had applied to. The news was not a surprise, but it confirmed what had only been hypothetical up to that point—the idea that I was studying abroad.

Submitting the application back in the end of September and eventually receiving an acceptance letter obviously made the abstract idea of going abroad more concrete, but nothing brought home the reality of study abroad more than the talk of registration.

In the past week or so, I’ve started to receive emails from my departments with the details about spring courses and registration appointments have been posted on SSOL. When a friend asked me what seminars I was planning on applying for, I had to remind myself before I could remind her that I wasn’t applying for seminars because I wasn’t going be at Columbia next semester. 

As I was filling out all the paper work and submitting forms for my program this weekend, I was reminded of what someone said to me when I first decided to apply to study abroad: “You only have eight semesters at Columbia. Are you sure you want to spend one of them somewhere else?”

Obviously studying abroad means leaving Columbia, but it's taken me awhile to really reflect about the consequences. It means leaving the comfort bubble of this campus, which I’ve grown to know and love over the few years. Studying abroad means not being around for springtime, for Bacchanal, for the first warm days of the season when it feels like the whole campus moves outside and lawns are overrun with people.

It means putting things in storage a semester early and leaving my beautiful room. And it means leaving my friends and the routine I’ve established here.

While studying abroad has started to feel like uprooting myself the way I did when I came to Columbia as a freshman, I also have to remind myself that studying abroad means moving forward as much as it means leaving Columbia behind. It means new people, new places, and new routines.

All that newness may be stressful for someone like me, who appreciates consistency, but I also realize that studying abroad is a much different kind of change than starting over at college. As obvious as it may sound, studying abroad doesn’t mean leaving Columbia behind permanently.  I’m lucky enough to get another year at Columbia when I come back. Yes I'll miss things, and yes much will change in my absence, but this isn't the end.

Nathalie Barton is a junior in Columbia College who will be studying abroad in Paris next semester. She will especially miss making stir fry with her roommate on cold nights.


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CC'13 posted on

Nathalie, have fun in Paris!!