I’m at the point in the year where my Facebook’s “On This Day” feed has become inundated with memories from abroad last spring, painfully reminding me that this time last year I was running around Paris, Morocco, and Prague. On this particular day, for example, I spent my evening sitting along el Río Guadalquivir at sunset drinking Spanish Rioja wine alongside my roomie in Seville. Are you sufficiently annoyed with me yet? Yeah, me too.
Most students who study abroad loved their experience and will happily share, solicited or otherwise, stories about their time romping around in foreign countries. There is no shortage of interview-worthy anecdotes about overcoming language barriers or fostering newfound confidence and independence while navigating an unfamiliar space. But even as someone who went abroad and loved it, surprisingly, one of the greatest lessons I learned about abroad was from my friends who stayed right here in Chestnut Hill.
I was surprised to find that when I returned, my non-abroad friends had just as much fun as those of us who spent our weekends on the beaches of Portugal or at the baths of Budapest. It wasn’t in a competitive “let’s-have-more-fun-than-the-abroad-kids” way. They just genuinely enjoyed their time here at BC.
When asked their favorite part about not going abroad, my friends shared stories of nights out at MAs, adventures in Boston, and lazy nights at our off-campus house. They not only grew closer to their existing friends, but also had the opportunity to meet and make friends with other non-abroad students that they may not have otherwise interacted with. The common thread among non-abroad students was not any one crazy story in particular, but simply a general sense of gratitude for a semester at BC with the people they love.
Their perspective was just as inspiring as those of my friends who traveled abroad. After talking with them, I couldn’t help but feel a newfound appreciation for a place I had come to take for granted. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t take risks, push ourselves outside of our comfort zones, or explore new parts of the world. Sometimes, however, our greatest adventures, blessings, and memories are those created right in front of us without us even realizing. We don’t need to travel thousands of miles across the world to find them, we just need to open our eyes to see how good we have it in this moment.
As I write this article, I’m sitting in O’Neill Library with a stack of assignments that puts my workload at Universidad Pablo de Olavide to shame—it’s certainly no weekend in Italy or Germany, but it’s 50 degrees and sunny, and Gasson looks especially fine today. I’m next to one of my best friends from freshman year, who looks up from his crossword every five minutes to distract me from my work and make me laugh. A nice stranger at my table let me borrow her laptop charger, and I realize I still haven’t gotten over how good the bowls in Eagle’s taste.
Despite what being abroad may trick your mind into believing, life isn’t always going to be a relentless string of exciting adventures. While I certainly loved and deeply appreciated my time abroad, I feel blessed that my friends taught me the value of finding happiness wherever you are, whether it’s the beaches of coastal Italy or the discolored walls of the mods. I would regret spending my final semester at BC looking back at old pictures and wishing I was back in Europe because some of my greatest memories to date are closer to home than I realize.
Maybe I’m just being a nostalgic second-semester senior trying to hold onto my final few months as tightly as possible, but I hope you don’t wait until the spring of your senior year to learn these lessons. Gain new appreciation for the people and places and things you normally take for granted. Do the little things that make you happy and find joy in their simplicity. Realize how good you have it now, because it won’t last forever. Soon enough, you’ll be tossed into the world as a new graduate with a full time job and rent payments, and you will crave those study days in O’Neill with stacks of case studies to read alongside your goofy best friends from freshman year.
Featured Graphic by Nicole Chan / Graphics Editor