Abroad Thoughts

Marcus Witherspoon ’20, Opinion Editor

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I knew I wanted to go abroad before I got to college. Growing up with a sister who is nine years older than me, I got to hear about all the exciting times she had while she studied abroad in Italy. Until two years ago I never travelled outside of the country so the thought of going abroad always intrigued me. I would describe myself as a curious person and reaching foreign lands was something that peaked my interest very much. 

A good part of the reason I came to Dickinson was because of the renowned abroad program. Although I spent a couple years thinking about going abroad, when the time came to apply and really go through the process it was nerve-wracking. Do I have everything submitted on time and correctly? Are my grades good enough? What if I don’t get in? These were common questions I asked myself daily and I became very stressed with the logistics of getting over there. When people started figuring out if they got accepted or not, it seemed like I would be the last person to find out. Until I got the news that I was accepted on my birthday. I was so elated because it was one of the best birthday gifts I ever got. A kid from Watertown, CT who remembers one of his eight grade teachers telling him he wouldn’t do much with himself when he was older, is now going to Europe for the first time to further my studies at an elite liberal arts college. Not only did it feel great because I felt prideful in proving someone wrong, but it also felt great because I was excited academically. I am an International Business and Management major and have thought about how having a first-person international business perspective can help with possible future employment interests. I was really able to immerse myself in the culture and connect things that I observed living life to my studies, especially business. 

On the other hand, there were some ups and downs. But that’s life, you know? Nothing will ever be how it’s depicted, but that is to be expected. People love to talk about all the highlights and good times because that is an easy story to tell. Being broke, FOMO, missing family, being abroad as a POC, etc., are topics that aren’t the best to constantly talk about. However, they are important to mention understanding that everyone has different things to work through and it can be really hard to experience that in another country. These are some things I wished I knew more about when I was deciding to go abroad. That’s why I believe it’s also important to be honest when talking about the abroad experience with friends, classmates, and strangers. It isn’t always going to be what it seems. But having an authentic reaction to it can bring some much-needed honesty to the table. I do not regret going abroad. It was a very special time that I probably won’t be able to experience, even in a small capacity, for a long, long time. So my advice to anyone that is going through that process, or thinking about that process, is that make sure you have some honest conversations with people who went over. Ask about dislikes and things that made them uncomfortable, and how they dealt with it. Definitely enjoy your time while you’re over there and keep an open mind, just try to prepare yourself better than I did.