Like most Boston College students, I had originally planned to study abroad. But plans change, and now I find myself in a cubby in O’Neill, writing papers and cramming for quizzes, procrastinating by watching Snapstories of my best friends vacationing together in Greece. I only recently found out what FOMO means, but man, is it real.
First semester of junior year was a blur. At some point I blinked and woke up with norovirus during finals, watching my friends pack their rooms into cardboard boxes to leave me behind. At least that’s how I felt at the time, and it’s how I’d been feeling for months.
I felt static—physically, in my decision to not go abroad, and emotionally, in my failed attempt to cling to my status as an underclassman. All of a sudden I could hear the clock ticking, and I had the unfortunate realization that my time at BC is ephemeral.
I’d been going through the motions, day after day. Lift, class, practice, library. Lift, class, practice, library. I wasn’t particularly happy, but had no real reason not to be, and the fact that most everyone I was close to was leaving on these grandiose adventures made me all the more anxious and nervous for what next semester would bring.
Come January, my squad left for London and Paris and Sydney, and I returned to Stayer with six random roommates and a direct I hardly knew. At first it was lonely, especially in the dead of a Boston winter. But their leaving forced change upon me, and for that I’m so thankful.
I’ve used this semester as an opportunity to get to know myself outside the context of my closest friends. I’ve known these people since freshman year, some even longer. I’ve grown up with these people, adjusted to life away from home with these people. When I thought about it, there really hadn’t been a time at BC that I hadn’t had these friends available to me whenever I needed or wanted them.
Because of this, I’ve spent significantly more time alone in the past few months, more than I probably ever have in my life. At a place like BC, where you’re surrounded by your best friends constantly, it’s hard to find, or even realize you need, a minute alone. While it’s wonderful to be able to turn to the people you love in times of sadness, laughter, anger, or excitement, there’s also something to be said for learning to process these feelings alone.
To deal with these emotions on an individual level develops a deeper understanding of these emotions and has ultimately helped me become more in touch with who I am and what I want in my last year at BC.
I’ve learned the importance of doing things for me. It’s all too easy to get caught in the motions of everyday life—the clubs we’re part of, the sports we play, the classes we take, the social lives we choose to lead. This fall, I did the things that made me comfortable. I couldn’t tell why I didn’t feel like myself because I was doing everything I normally do, everything that had made me happy in the past. Everyone goes through times when he or she feels “off,” but can’t figure out why. We’re growing up, and change is imminent, even when we can’t see that.
People argue that going abroad instigates this change, that being far away from a familiar place forces you out of your comfort zone and fosters personal growth. For many, this is undoubtedly true. I do believe, however, that it’s possible to have that experience without going abroad. In fact, I’m not sure I would have grown the same way that I have over the past four months had I been in Europe as I’d originally planned.
There are certainly aspects of being abroad and traveling that can’t be experienced at BC. I think that the real sell for studying abroad, however, is to broaden your horizons and see the world through a different lens. While this may be harder to accomplish at BC, it’s certainly not impossible.
I do feel left out almost every time I see pictures on Facebook of my friends abroad. Although I had the opportunity to spend a summer session in London, the experience is inarguably different. A semester allows for more travel and exploration, more familiarity with the host city. These are experiences that I want to have, but it just wasn’t the right time for me.
It’s a personal choice, and different for each individual, but I am confident at this point in the semester in my decision to stay at BC. I think about the new relationships I’ve formed. I think about the fear, sadness, anxiety, and pain that I’ve learned to overcome on my own.
I think about my roles as a teammate, captain, student, friend, and sister, and how I’ve grown in these roles in more ways than I could have possibly imagined. And perhaps most importantly, I think about the clarity I’ve gotten on what I want out of my experience here at BC.
I think that by junior year, what we need is a change. We need something new and exciting to get us over the wall of anxiety standing between now and graduation. For some of us this is an experience overseas, and for some of us it’s not—and that’s okay. We’re all going to be back on the Heights come September, revitalized, smiling through the fear of the future as we soak up the last two semesters we get to spend at the greatest place on earth.
Featured Image by Kelsey McGee / Heights Editor