To study abroad or not to study abroad? It’s a question that confronts college students on a frequent basis, introducing an inevitable flurry of related questions that plague us: when should I go? Where should I go? WHY should I go??
Well, in an attempt to help you tackle those questions for yourself, our editorial intern shares his experiences of studying abroad in Rome and lists the 5 things you will reap by the bucketload should you decide to take the leap (and take it from us, you definitely should!):
“You don’t need to lose it to know that you had it good.” John Mayer puts it perfectly in his song “Another Kind of Green,” playing off the metaphor “the grass is always greener on the other side.” How many times in your life has it taken losing something to make you realize how good you had it? Although the song was referring specifically to relationships, this is true of so many other situations: a tough job, a class that’s giving you a hard time, an initially socially awkward moment, drudging through practice for a sport…
I’ve had this happen to me many times in life. Partly because I’m a fickle person by nature and always second guess my decisions. A girl I swore I wanted nothing to do with seemed like the greatest thing in the world the second I broke up with her. The one time this hasn’t been the case is when I studied abroad. This was the one time in my life that I knew I was having the time of my life while it was happening. That’s a really cool feeling to have. I remember FaceTime’ing my mom while walking through the cobblestone streets of Trastevere (my neighborhood) with a huge smile on my face explaining my new life on the other side of the world (between her sobs and complaints that she missed me).
And no, it’s not the kind where seven people are picked to live in a house. In our editorial intern’s final post, she tells you all the things you shouldn’t waste your time worrying about in this time of inevitable worries—graduation.
Today is my last day as an intern at eNotes. Because they’re promoting me to an EXECUTIVE POSITION.
Hah, just kidding. They’re kicking me out. My internship has run its course and now we must part ways (sigh).
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. As I walk away from this position and from my previous college lifestyle, I can’t help but feel like scissors are snipping at the ties that connected me to these things. Many things are finished and done. And it feels a little like that painful moment someone harshly yanks the blinds open after you’ve been sitting in a dark room for 5 hours.
Life after college…is a really strange thing. I’d like to equate it to a baby bird’s first flight. That moment you leave college is the same moment someone kicks you square in the back. You start to freefall downwards and it’s exhilarating but scary. You don’t know how to flap your wings or gain altitude because you’ve never done it before, but you’re trying with all your might to do something—anything. You know that you are capable of flight, you can feel it as the adrenaline rushes through you.
I think we are all humming Tom Petty in our heads right now.
When we leave college, we’re free for the first time. No homework, no essays, no school responsibilities. No strict guidance, no tunnel vision, no more college microcosm. We can take our lives in any direction we choose to. But that doesn’t mean we necessarily know how to handle the situation or understand it fully. That doesn’t mean that we’re going to know how to grasp the real world off the bat, or even comprehend it. We’re thrown into it, and told to make it work. We know we can because a lot of people can. We know we can because we have a desire to and that desire fuels us. But we’re young. I’m not talking about age. I’m talking about our understanding of the world and of who we are. We’re young. So, it seems, the freefall is the only way we can prompt self growth, but it’s definitely not the most comfortable of feelings.
I’m undeniably in this free fall right now. I’m actually writing to you as I pummel toward the earth.
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve done a lot of worrying. A whole lot of worrying. To me, it makes perfect sense. New world, new life, new opportunities, and decisions that need to be made…these are all things that bring their own baggage—their own sets of worries and stressors. Throw ‘em all together and you’ve got one huge, heavy mess.
There’s a good chance this will happen to you at some point, so I’m going to go ahead and help you through it. There are some things that don’t need to be worried about. But we worry about them because we don’t realize we’re worrying about things that don’t need to be worried about. Let’s pretend like that sentence was really clear and not a run-on at all.
Here are some things you shouldn’t waste your time worrying about, like I did.
- Don’t worry about failing. If you’re chasing something—a goal, a dream, a degree, a career—just chase it, with all the gusto you have. Don’t let your mind be boggled by the potentiality of failing. It will distract. You likely won’t fail. And if you do, well…failure is also a good thing. It teaches. The best lessons are learnt from failing at something. Either you succeed at your dream, and move on, or you fail at it, and move on. Both of these things will leave you more knowledgeable about yourself, about life, and about what you really want from both of those things. Hello…this is a win-win.
- Don’t worry about what your life is going to look like in 25 years. Mini van. Dog. Three kids. A house. Early retirement. It’s good to have an idea of what you want your life to look like, and it’s good to take action to make those things more of a possibility. But stop stressing over them. Most of our plans are just rough drafts or sketches anyways. Things rarely happen the way we expect or plan on them to. So why dwell? Silly goose.
- Don’t worry about things that haven’t happened yet. “If I don’t get this job then I’ll be unemployed and I’ll lose all of my friends because I won’t be able to go out anymore and I’ll just have to hang out with a dog and talk to it and I’ll eventually lose all my money and my apartment and my ability to remain hygienic and basically my life is going to be OVER.” Yes, let’s not do this. Half of the things we worry about are things that haven’t come into fruition yet. They’re thoughts. Little puffs of air that we catch in jars and then stare at until our eyeballs hurt. There’s nothing there. Stop staring. Stop it! Be in the present, not trapped in the different futures you’ve managed to paint. If something worry-worth actually occurs, worry about it then, but only then.
- Don’t worry about what your friendships and relationships will look like as your life moves forward. Just keep in touch with your friends and loved ones. Those who remain in your life are meant to, those who don’t might turn up again later or might not. We can’t control these things except by how much effort we put forth. So show that you care and love these special people, but don’t worry that they’ll leave you. That just makes for messes, drama, and crying. The kinds of emotion you feel during the gut-wrenching, tear jerking portion of a rom-com. Yuck.
- Don’t worry about finding a perfect career that’ll last you a lifetime. This is just silly. In life, we change constantly, and so do our interests. It’s not really probable to assume that a career you pick now will make you happy forever. In all likelihood, it won’t. In order for you to actually succeed at and enjoy your career, you will need to find work based off of what you feel in the present—what’s driving you now. So, with that in mind, there’s no need to worry about finding the perfect career that’ll last forever. Just find yourself a path that feels right for right now. Don’t worry so much about what happens later.
A wise man and renowned poet named Robert Sylvester Kelly (commonly known as R. Kelly), once sang to the heavens these famous words: “I believe I can fly.”
Well, friends, I believe you can fly.
It’s been nice knowing you, folks.
How eNotes’ Math and Science intern overcame his trouble with the sciences and learned to love his Biochemistry major.
Science: the subject that many find so difficult to understand (and so boring to even attempt to understand) that they just dread learning about it, dread having to sit in class and listen to the teacher ramble on about atoms and cells and forces of nature. In high school, I used to be the type of student who wanted to ditch my chemistry and biology class. Seriously, who wants to hang around periodic tables and posters of cellular structures all day, and then have to study so hard just to learn on the test that you understood almost nothing? However, when I started college and began studying for my biochemistry degree (being Asian, I was heavily influenced to become a doctor), I began to realize why so many of us perform poorly in and, for some, even fear science. A 3rd year into my studies now, let me share with you my experience of overcoming the negative attitude and eventually growing to love this subject.
“Why do I need to learn this? When am I ever going to use this information in my lifetime?” These are questions that we’ve all asked at some point in our scientific studies. In fact, the professor of my public speaking course raised this question just 2 days ago, referring to the sciences. This is one of the many reasons that science classes may seem so difficult and scary. It seems so arbitrary and foreign to us, like learning a whole new language that we will never use, and school fails in making it seem less frightening, in making it more familiar. Instead, we are driven away by how test-oriented the material is and the amount of memorization that is required.
My love for the sciences began in my first physics and chemistry courses. We were learning about exothermic (release of heat) chemical reactions and kinetic energy. Sure, I understand that when favorable chemical reactions naturally occur spontaneously go towards products and release energy as heat, but what does this mean and why do I care? Out of frustration in how poorly I was doing in the class, I decided to approach learning science through another method. I began to explore where these concepts occur in my everyday world and that’s when I stumbled across explosions. Those beautiful explosions seen in fireworks and those awesomely crazy explosions seen in action movies can all be fundamentally explained by the basic concept of exothermic reactions. All that force, heat/light, and fire that we see as a result of an explosion is all due to a chemical reaction that releases a lot of heat, causing the rapid expansion of air molecules. How cool is that?! All that insanity due simply to a sudden, quick expansion of air molecules that help transfer heat! I’d never thought something so simple can be responsible for what we see in fireworks and explosions. This is when I realized that I can make science a lot easier and a lot more interesting to understand.
Over the last few years, I stumbled across more interesting applications of the concepts I was learning in class. In quantum mechanics, I learned that teleportation is possible and that scientists have already teleported incredibly small particles from one island to another (shout out to all those Star Trek fans who fantasize about traveling from one place to another in a matter of seconds). In physics and chemistry, I discovered the most efficient way to drive a car, meaning I can now consistently get above 40 miles per gallon in my 1996 Honda Civic, which is incredible considering that a lot of fuel efficient cars these days average about only 32 miles per gallon.
The main point I’m trying to get at is learn how the science can be applied and try to relate it to a phenomenon that you find fascinating, especially if you are someone who is currently struggling in your science courses as I did (my GPA actually dropped below a 3.0 when I started college). Explore the internet and answer that question your little voice keeps asking in your head, “When am I ever going to use this?” It’s what led me to finding better and easier ways to perform simple tasks, such as driving, cooking, and fixing broken appliances. Although it may be true that science comes more naturally for those who are left brain dominant, all you need to do is be creative and find some way to connect that scientific concept to something that really interests you, and you don’t need to be an Einstein to make that happen. In fact, that’s how most of us learn in other subjects, but science just seems so foreign at first that it’s hard to take that first, eye-opening step. Once you take that step, though, you’ll begin to realize all beautiful ideas and revolutionary technology arise from surprisingly simple concepts with a bit of imagination and experimentation. It’s what allows for the possibility of teleportation, the possibility of substituting electricity with quantum particles to make computing millions of times faster, the possibility of finding cures for life-threatening diseases, and the possibility of traveling through space and time. That’s pretty awesome if you ask me.
So, as Jesse Pinkman expresses it in Breaking Bad, “Yeah, science!”
Just come with us on this one…
eNotes’ intern offers more advice on how to savor college and prep for the real world, which in foodie-terms can only be likened to that salad bar at the Souplantation–a bottomless pit of just “meh.” So, now that we’ve livened your spirits…
Picture this. You’re at a restaurant, and it’s around 3 or 4 o’clock. You woke up late and didn’t have time to grab any breakfast, and you had class for a couple straight hours without a break. Essentially, you’ve gone all day without a single bite of food, and MAN you’re hungry. So hungry, in fact, that the moment the waiter brings you whatever it is you’ve ordered (probably something with french fries), you praise him for his good deed, nearly yank it from his hands, and devour the entire meal before you even realize it’s happening. The next time you look at your plate, you realize it’s just you and a couple crumbs left. You aren’t even sure what you just ate.
Now, I didn’t just use this example because this is my life on a near regular basis… I used it because it’s really applicable! Watch me go, I promise, this is totally going to resonate.
That hamburger and french fries you just savagely took down in 2 minutes flat—that’s college (Oh my GOODNESS, what is that you say?). Chances are, you (you near graduate, you) feel like college “whoosh”ed past you in 2 minutes flat, or something close to that. You’re looking back at all those fragments of memories and experiences, and probably freaking out a little bit. Okay, maybe a lot-a-bit. I know I’ve spent the past couple nights rehearsing lines like these: “where’d all the time go?” and “I can’t believe it” and maybe some “…” (that’s just some silent wall-staring).
Fret no more, fellow sorry souls. We’re all in this together. We’re going to make it through. We’re going to savor all the best things about college while we still can. For those of you who aren’t as close to the end of the plank as us, pay heed to this list of top 10 things that are awesome about college (and maybe try to chew a little slower).
- When someone asks you what you’re doing with your life, you are allowed to answer “I’m a student,” and just like that, the “I now have to tell a stranger I have no idea what I’m doing with my life and I’m unemployed” conversational crisis is averted. Seriously, just like that. Enjoy this. Even if you have to awkwardly linger around people until they ask you that question, just do it.
- You essentially live in a weird village full of likeminded, crazy 18-22 year olds, and you’re friends with a ton of them- this is something that could only be crafted by a spirit above. Seriously…you live surrounded by your friends. Surrounded. This will likely never happen again in your life. Ever. Go hang out with your neighbors (and by neighbors I mean those that live: next door, across the street, down the street, and anywhere from 1-10 blocks away from you).
- This weird village you live in has its own set of moral codes and ethics. Close to 50% of the things you do in the little microcosm of a world that is your college town will never be accepted outside of that bubble. Revel in it.
- On the same vein, once you graduate, you will no longer be able to recount events of the past night or week and shrug it off with a smirk and the words, “college, man.” Self explanatory.
- The opportunities your university provides for you are endless. Clubs, events, speakers, concerts, special lectures, counselors, employment- the list goes on and on. You should participate as much as you can and take advantage of it all. Don’t be lazy, you’ll miss out on a lot of experiences you won’t be able to get anywhere else.
- You can cook like you’re a survivor on the series Lost, and no one will judge you. Pre-packaged foods, a microwave…who needs a stove or forks or knives? I mean, even if you wanted to have a dinner party, Trader Joes has some frozen meals that serve at least four people. You’re all set! Once you leave college, people actually may start expecting you to use fresh ingredients and things like spices (not the kind that comes inside your top ramen package—mmm, MSG). Eat as many microwavable chicken nuggets and taquitos as you can, while you still can.
- You get to learn the things you want to learn about. I know everyone complains about school because of all the work and studying and blah, blah, blah. But we all know, deep down, we like it at least a little bit. The fact that we get to fill our brains with new information on a daily basis, and that that information may lead us in one direction or other, building our interests and leading us to new ones…that’s just awesome. You know it, I know it. We just don’t like to really admit it all the time. College students are stubborn.
- You can wear sweatpants whenever you want because your day job isn’t really a job at all. Your job is to sit in a lecture and try to stay awake while learning things. Nowhere in that description are the words “business casual.” Pajamas are only pajamas if you’re in bed and sleeping- otherwise, they’re just clothes. Think about that.
- You’re allowed to dabble in things without being talked about as if you’re a lost soul searching for your way. Hey, it’s college. You’re encouraged to try new things, regardless of what they are. Literally, you can do anything and people (essentially by law) have to just nod and say, “that’s what college is for,” and they’re right. So explore, a lot, and do the weirdest things you can possibly think of because you never know what’ll stick. Soon it’ll be too late and your dreams of being a figure skater will be looked at a little more critically (Not that that should hinder you. You should always chase your dreams, even if people laugh at you, or think you’re nuts. I’m just saying, take advantage of the head start college is intended to give you).
- You are told, around three times a year, that you must stop doing schoolwork and instead, “relax.” Winter break, spring break, and summer vacation are some of the best inventions that have ever been created in the history of the world. Fire, the wheel—they pale in comparison. It’s mandated, enforced relaxation. This will most likely never be permitted at any other time in your life.
If all else fails, listen to some ‘90s music. Or to Hall and Oates (specifically, “You Make My Dreams”). You will feel like a kid at Disneyland who’s eating a churro (and we all know that’s the best feeling in the world).
Yippee! You’re going to COLLEGE!
You’re probably getting hours and hours of sleep because you don’t spend any time at all mulling over all the new, unknown, big, scary things that come bundled up in that word ‘college.’ No, you haven’t started thinking about your future or your career or what all that means for your next four years. You haven’t started thinking about leaving home (if you are), either, or leaving your friends. You’re dandy. You’re just great. You are so excited. Genuinely amped. Ready to go. You feel like you just want to give everyone high fives.
Except, that’s not true at all. That’s actually laughable.
I know, you know, we all know that you are also (and I am definitely understating this): scared out of your wits. You’ve got the heebie-jeebies—those annoying willies. Your stomach is essentially a butterfly conservatory. You spend a lot of your free time exclaiming things like: “WHAT IS GOING ON?” Or… “HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW WHAT I WANT TO DO WHEN I GROW UP?” But mostly… “AHHHHHH.”
Guess what? You’re normal.
This is normal.
College is a huge adjustment. Somehow, though, all of us college-goers come out alive, smiling, and never wanting to leave. So be soothed. This will be the best time of your life.
Now, I know my words of wisdom won’t actually be heeded at the moment, so I won’t keep spouting nostalgic, reflective, awesome statements about college.
What I will do is give you some tips on how to gain appropriate perspective on your undergraduate education. We’re going to talk about (dun dun dunnnn…): YOUR MAJOR.
Hear me when I say: YOU WANT TO READ THIS.
It’s okay to change it. Multiple times.
Some of you know exactly what you want to study, maybe what career path you want to go down. You’re pretty sure you’ve got it all figured out. If you’re nodding your head right now, this piece of wisdom is for you: you may be surprised.
Some of you will keep on that initial path. You’ll start taking classes in your particular major, you’ll enjoy it, you’ll sit in the front row, hang out with your professors in office hours, and you’ll just keep on keepin’ on until you graduate.
Some of you, though, will find that you don’t actually like what you thought you would. You’re bored, you’re confused, you’re sleeping (and snoring) in class, and you just aren’t that into it. For you guys, and for those who start off college undeclared, I implore you to feel comfortable and at ease trying new things until something fits. You do it when you shop, you can do it when you study. You wouldn’t buy an extremely expensive outfit without trying it on first, would you? So why buy an education (which is, you know, sort of pricey) without trying some stuff out first? Think about it.
Some of you might be worried about what “other people” will think. I want to tell you that no one will judge you if you change it up a bit. They will actually praise you for caring about the education you are getting (who’s the cool kid on campus now?). As long as you monitor your units, requirements, etc. throughout your college career, you should have no problem. Have no fear, you are not alone! Counselors can help you with this process, too!
It doesn’t define your career.
Oh my goodness, what did she just say? THAT IS BLASPHEMOUS!
I have a lot of friends who want to be doctors. They’ve taken their pre-requisites for medical school, sure, but do you know how many of them are actually majoring in things like physiological sciences, biology, biochemistry, neuroscience, etc.? Practically none. Many have picked majors like history and English. The same goes for some of my friends who chose to go to law school.
Your major matters because hopefully it reflects your interests. Hopefully, you are studying something you really want to be studying. That may or may not lead to a career in that field. You may even (like my aspiring-doctor-buds) get the chance to study two subjects (Wow!). I changed my major three times (almost four…no shame), am currently studying psychology, and don’t intend to be a psychologist. Nuts, right? Your options are endless.
The main point is…
Don’t let yourself be scared by the constricting appearance of a word like ‘major.’ It’s not going to constrict you unless you want it to and you let it. With enough determination you can always pull strings here and there and maneuver stealthily through your undergraduate experience to create whatever experience you want. Honestly. Just look at college as a time to figure out what really makes you tick- what you really want to spend time learning about. Maybe you will be inspired to continue that study later on in life, and maybe you won’t. There’s nothing wrong with either of these situations.
So take the leap, step into the unknown, jump into the ocean, let your spirit fly!
(That got excessive fairly quickly…my bad.)
Point is: try new things, explore a little bit. You’ll be better than fine.
Okay, okay… I pinky promise.
Whether you’re preparing to attend college or you’re already there, you’ll probably have figured out by now that applying for scholarships to fulfill that expensive education is almost as difficult and as time consuming as attaining the degree itself. With the massive amount of competition out there, you might feel you have about the same chances of attaining a scholarship as you do of winning some sort of sweepstakes; there will always be somebody smarter, luckier, more talented or more involved in school than you to snatch the prize. It’s hard to be that student in the middle, believe me, I know. As I found out when I was applying to universities, my parents (who were by no means “well-off”) earned too much for me to receive any government aid, while my grades (a 4.3 GPA) were caught in a no-man’s land in the scholarship world–not as high as my valedictorian friend’s, not as low as the struggling students’ who were given opportunities to break the cycle and go to college (quite rightly).
But in all of that, I ended up with scholarship fatigue. It felt like it’d never be me receiving the helping hand. How I wish the following scholarship had existed back then, when I could’ve been granted a scholarship for doing what I do best–being me.
College Humor is offering two students the opportunity to win $5,000 a piece. The requirement? Be that typical student caught in the middle.
Did you sign up for 3 clubs but never attend meetings? Is your GPA a 2.1? Would some of your professors have a hard time remembering if you were in their class? If so, enter now! We hope you’re not exceptional.
If you’re looking for ways to pay for college and are coming up short, definitely give this scholarship a go. What’s the downside of rejection, after all? That you’re not average enough? Head over to the scholarship’s home page to watch a funny video and find out more on how to apply. Good luck!