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In Defense Of: Not Studying Abroad

Where the hell am I?! Prague?! London?!

Where the hell am I?! Prague?! London?!

Many students are off on their glorious study abroad trips for this Spring semester, and the feeling of being left in New York may bring some students down about. While studying abroad may feel like the latest trend, it is not necessarily the best decision for everyone. New York Lover Courtney Couillard defends deciding not to study abroad while at Columbia.

Your instagram is flooded with pictures of old buildings in Europe. People won’t stop tweeting about how their experience is the most “life changing experience they’ve ever had.” And here you are: sitting in your small dorm room and staring out the window at dreary New York weather. The beginning of Spring semester can be rough given the time of the year and post-holiday apathy towards school, but seeing pictures and hearing stories about your friends studying abroad doesn’t help. You shouldn’t feel down about not being abroad! Missing that info session about studying in London to instead drink boxed wine was one of the best decisions you’ve made. Just because all of your friends have decided to study abroad doesn’t mean that you are obligated to in your four years at Columbia; perhaps, deciding to not study abroad is the most “life changing experience” you will make.

My biggest critique is the fact that we live in New York City. For most, including my New Hampshire soul, attending college in this city is like studying abroad every semester. New York provides endless opportunities to have fun, learn outside the classroom, and escape your comfort zone. While it may be bold or scary living abroad for a semester, it is also those things deciding to create a life in New York. Your friends may be bragging about their great weekend trips to every country in Europe, but you can do just the same exploring the different boroughs and neighborhoods outside of Morningside Heights. Just like your abroad friends, it is up to you to take advantage of the new territory you are staying in and get as much as you can out of it during your time here.

New York may not be the cheapest city in the world, but the decision to study abroad could be a costly decision that not all students are able to afford. Your bank account could dry up quickly while abroad with all of the restaurants you will visit and souvenirs you will want to buy. You may also pay more than you would at Columbia to attend a program or college abroad, potentially not receiving sufficient financial aid. Your work study job won’t follow you to another country either. Ultimately, studying abroad is very much so a fiscal privilege and not all students can afford such a luxurious decision. But that’s ok! Use your student ID and go to The Met for free. You’ll be just as cultured as your friend in France. And richer.

Finally, most people brag that the greatest perk to studying abroad is the “experience” and how that can be so valuable to their future as both a student and person. Never diminish how brave you are for deciding to live in New York, especially if you are not originally from the city. Just as scary as it is for your friend to immerse themselves in a foreign language or visit small villages in distant countries, simply walking the streets of New York is an example of you putting yourself out there into a different world and learning. After four years in New York you will undoubtedly acquire a great deal of this illustrious “experience.” This “experience” can be from your internships, clubs, publications, friend groups, and nights spent not knowing whether you’re in Brooklyn or Manhattan. Further, you could better use your time at Columbia, depending on your major, to take courses that will actually apply to your degree rather than ultimately useless filler classes. Never discredit how valuable your time here at Columbia is, and use the time you do have in New York as if this is a study abroad opportunity in its own way.

Hopeless traveler via Shutterstock

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  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous This is the high quality satire we know and love from Bwog. Seriously though, study abroad.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Does Paul Nungesser have a litigation fund to bolster his case against Emma Sulkowicz and Columbia? I’d like to donate to his cause

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous I don’t think this is satire. Study abroad is one of the biggest scams of the modern university system.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Yeah. I did a semester in Roliskia, and I’m pretty sure that’s not even a real country.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous As someone who moved from Europe to NYC because of Columbia, I agree that the city can be daunting in the beginning. Beyond that, this article is ridiculous if not harmful: it displays exactly that attitude of “I don’t need to know anything about the rest of the world because I live in the center of the world!” that makes Americans so unpopular in all other countries.
    (While I’m constantly trying to convince my friends back home that not every American is like that, this article certainly proves that this kind of thinking is still way too acceptable here)

    1. Uh... says:

      @Uh... You know, I would agree and all, except for the fact that this is the same logic that students often use to critique the Core. It goes both ways.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous But seriously, go abroad if you can.

  • Anon says:

    @Anon I very much agree with this piece. I personally chose not to study abroad for many of the reasons listed above. I’m from a rural part of the US, and had only even had the opportunity to visit NYC once before being accepted to school here. I haven’t been to Europe and couldn’t study abroad there primarily for financial reasons. Nevertheless, I’ve used the past four years to really explore New York. Through student programs, I’ve been able to see a few shows a month, and by working at a few jobs off campus, I’ve found it much less expensive to live off of campus and have done so in other boroughs. The education you get from immersing yourself in a culture during study abroad is invaluable, but there are countless cultures and neighborhoods to immerse yourself in within New York too.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous foreign pussy is the best, best hookups I had were in Paris

  • #blessed to be here says:

    @#blessed to be here Honestly, I appreciate this perspective. For me, just being able to come to New York is a huge deal for me and my family. It embarrasses me when others ask if I’m studying abroad and I have to say no. It isn’t shameful for me to want to experience everything that I can here while I have the chance. If I could study abroad, maybe I would, but to be honest I don’t even really want to and it isn’t because I think America is the be all, end all or anything like that. I hope to see the world later in life when I hopefully have the luxury of being able to travel in the exact way I want to.

  • Uhm says:

    @Uhm I’m pretty sure this isn’t saying “don’t study abroad” it’s saying that it’s ok if you choose not to. That’s all.

  • abroad rn says:

    @abroad rn there’s more to the world than western europe, people. studing abroad doesn’t have to be expensive.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous blasphemy! I deserve the right to subtly deride the privilege of others!

  • hmm says:

    @hmm I feel like the prevalent mentality on campus toward studying abroad is “I don’t want to because I don’t want to miss out on what’s here.” That’s a dumb reason not to go. The opportunity cost is not that high. Most of you are much more likely to live in NYC again than to be able to take 5 months off to travel and engage with another culture in a more meaningful way than a tourist.

    If FOMO is the only thing stopping you from considering studying abroad, you should consider harder. Campus will be here when you get back.

    Of course there are other reasons not to go like finances or inability to graduate (I hear SEAS legit doesn’t let you study abroad?!). For me personally, it was cheaper to study abroad than to attend Columbia since tuition was the same and cost of living was a lot cheaper. So if you want to go and think you can’t afford it, check with FinAid first!

    On on another note, it’d be interesting to hear the perspective of someone who went abroad and thinks it’s a bad idea. I’ve literally never heard anyone say they’ve regretted it. Any of you lurkers out there think you did miss out on something by spending a semester in another country?

    1. hmm says:

      @hmm ETA: and also not wanting to. That’s a valid reason not to go as well.

      I just meant to say that if you’re considering it you shouldn’t let fear hold you back. I was pondering going for a whole semester and almost didn’t go since I was so afraid of missing out on certain classes and friendships. That’s silly.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous New York is amazing, that is why studing at Columbia is the best experience. I just can’t imaging not being in a city.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous All I get from this article is that going to school in NYC is basically studying abroad in easy mode.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous do you get a refund for the difference in tuition (even if on finaid) if you study abroad?? ifso ill definitely study abroad

  • New Hampshirite says:

    @New Hampshirite I, like the author, am from New Hampshire, and although it is true that living in New York City is a whole other world, it is very easy to get settled into a routine at Columbia and not continue to explore frequently and meet new people, whereas if you study abroad you are forced to do so.

    Plus you probably won’t have as crazy an amount of work to do all the time, so you’ll have more time to do the sort of exploration they’re describing.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous While studying abroad can cost a bit extra out of pocket (depending on where you travel), the way Columbia has structured its study abroad program is that you pay the Columbia tuition. In a way, this can be good or bad, seeing as some universities are definitely less expensive than Columbia… -___-

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