I went through the WebReg enrollment process last week with a sinking sense of finality. By signing up to spend my final quarter of UCSD in the likes of Pepper Canyon and Otterson Hall, I knew I would be missing out on my last chance to study abroad as an undergraduate.
Although I dreamed of getting the “life-altering” experience that the flyers on Library Walk boasted of, there has never been a quarter in which I didn’t have a paying job (or two) that I couldn’t just up and leave behind to cavort around Italy for a few months. Each year, I watched with envy as friends left for global seminars in Rome and Buenos Aires or spent months basking in the Barbados sun. One of my classmates has even spent five quarters — nearly half of her entire college career — hopping between universities across three different continents. To assuage any feelings of regret for not giving my two-weeks notice and packing my bags, I’ve mulled over reasons why staying behind and lusting over albums of glorious travel photos is not as dire as it seems.
First, the obvious: You don’t have to deal with less-than-ideal technicalities. Round-trip tickets to Europe, the most popular study abroad destination, easily rack up in the thousands. Leaving for a quarter also usually means that you must either find someone on Free & For Sale to sublet from you or give up your space and resign to dealing with a complicated housing situation upon your return. It’s a different case at SDSU, where students in 38 of its 85 undergraduate degree programs are actually required to spend some time in other countries. This widespread prevalence enables SDSU students to more easily find familiar faces to live with who would be leaving and returning around the same time.
Another upside is that you won’t be taking any time away from your college experience. The Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal will still be there when you graduate, but you only do your undergraduate years once. Although the seasoned traveler in my class made pen pals all over the world and across the UC system, she failed to maintain longstanding close friendships with those she met at UCSD due to her constant absence. Staying put means that you’ll never have to return to a place that has changed drastically since you’ve been gone and to friends who have formed memories and strengthened bonds without you.
Travel isn’t something you must confine to a quarter — there will be plenty of time to live, work and study in another country later on in life. I’m still (incredibly) jealous of the 22 percent of UCSD students who made it work, but I also realize that staying in sunny San Diego for the past four years doesn’t mean that I have irreparably missed out. There are other options for going abroad after leaving UCSD, such as the Peace Corps, JET program and graduate and professional school schemes. As for myself, hopefully at this time next year I will be BFFs with Big Ben.