The Plight of the College Student (Part Two)

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For those of you who have read the majority of my articles, you might remember the very first one that I wrote for Candor News: “The Plight of the College Student.” That article focused largely on the problem that college students face of finding anything productive to do during the summer, regardless of how much they enjoy it. I briefly mentioned that one go-to activity for college kids during the summer is to travel or do some sort of study abroad.

I had been planning on writing an article dealing with college students and studying abroad, but recent events and observations in my own life have given me some new insight into the issue of studying abroad. There are a lot of different things that one has to consider when deciding to do a study abroad. At many colleges, the study abroad possibilities can seem endless. Do you want to study for a semester or during the summer? (Or would you be brave enough to go for the entire year?) What are you going study? (Do you want to get major credit or explore a new area of study?) Where do you want to go? (Are you shooting for Asia, Europe, South America?) All of these factors play a part in a student’s decision regarding which study abroad(s) they participate in – some students choose to participate in multiple study abroad programs if they can find the time and funds to do so.

As someone who has just finished the first year of my undergraduate career, study abroad is definitely one of my top priorities when it comes to my remaining college years. And I have spent numerous hours on my school’s study abroad website, trying to figure out exactly what my future study abroad programs will entail. Each study abroad program has its own brochure stuffed full of information – costs of the program, the dates of the program, travel warnings, the classes/academic opportunities offered, and so much more. However, there’s something that the brochures don’t address in the piles of information provided, and that is how to deal with personal relationships while abroad.

Now, there’s no reason why a study abroad program should address this. After all, the responsibility of the program is to make sure you’re safe and to provide you with a unique academic experience – they aren’t responsible for helping you to maintain your personal relationships while you’re abroad. I’m not trying to make the argument that study abroad programs should address this issue. (Like I said earlier, it isn’t their job). To be honest, I never even thought about this issue until I was facing the prospects of embarking on my own study abroad program. But I found that one of the first concerns I faced when I was considering study abroad programs was not necessarily going to a foreign country; rather, it was the prospect of leaving my friends behind for an extended period of time. For some reason, traveling to a foreign place does not seem to be too scary until you are faced with the prospect of going to that place without friends that you know well. You’re worried about what will happen when you’re gone – you’ll undoubtedly miss out on a few hangouts while you’re away. But, one of the perks of studying abroad is making friends, and while you might miss your old friends, you’ll certainly make some new ones through your program. Regardless, the need to keep up with old friends while you’re away on a new adventure may seem difficult at first, and it has the possibility of putting a strain on relationships.

For some students, there’s another type of personal relationship that they worry about when considering study abroad programs. Lots of students in college become involved with a significant other. In some cases, these relationships can become pretty serious – dating can turn into a long-term relationship in which both of you envision a possible future together. In many cases, the idea of spending a significant amount of time apart can be daunting; a lot of couples may not like the prospect of a long-distance relationship. And this is where study abroad programs can be troublesome for couples. In today’s world, studying abroad is considered to be basically a fundamental part of the college experience. Lots of kids want to study abroad and trying to carry on a relationship when both you and your significant other want to study abroad can be difficult. It’s likely that the two of you will want to go on different programs; the programs may be at different times during the year and they may be in different locations. The duration of the programs might be different. Being away from each other for an extended period of time is difficult enough, and the difficulty (in theory) is increased when one of you is living in a different continent. (Those darn time zones can probably cause a lot of grief.)

This article may seem to be pretty negative, and I didn’t intend for it to be that way. Rather, the intent of this article was to explore an aspect of studying abroad that isn’t really considered initially. In today’s world, successful students are expected to, in a sense, “do it all.” Not only do they take a demanding course load, but they also involve themselves in numerous extracurricular activities. Some choose to work or conduct research. On top of this all, many have to aspiration to study abroad at least once during their college career – many make a point to study abroad more than once. There are so many incredible perks of studying abroad, and I do think that any student who gets a chance to study abroad should take that opportunity. At the same time, however, study abroad programs can put a strain on personal relationships. You travel to a foreign place, with the intention of meeting new friends and seeing a new part of the world, and it can be difficult to keep up with all your friends back home. This problem can be heightened for couples, as they attempt to carry on a relationship while living quite far apart from each other. Of course, the one thing that I need to make note of is that all relationships are different. The majority of my peers goes on successful study abroad programs and has no problem with maintaining relationships back home. All people and couples work differently, and it’s not my place to say what will and will not work for every couple.

It’s just something to think about.

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