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.
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