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Carolina Maria Reyes | Senior Thoughts

Go abroad for as long as you can

Published: Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Updated: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 09:02

When I entered my sophomore year I had resolutely decided I wasn’t going abroad. I was afraid of missing out at Tufts, daunted by what I perceived to be the logistical nightmare of transferring credits to fulfill my IR requirements (why can IR majors only transfer three credits?) and thought it would be unfair to ask my parents to pay tuition at a university that would provide me with an education inferior to the one I was receiving at Tufts.

So I signed a lease with my two best friends and started my sophomore year with no sense of urgency, knowing I had nearly three more years to take advantage of involving myself in all the clubs I had been e-listed for but never attended a meeting, and enrolling in all the Ex-College courses I wanted to but had never gotten around to registering for.

Yet, through a series of unusual events at the end of September, someone encouraged me to apply to the Tufts-in-Oxford program. I was already determined to stay and had never considered the Oxford program because it seemed intense, unrelated to my field of study (IR with a regional concentration in Latin America and a lot of things I never ended up minoring in) and a huge time commitment. But despite these hesitations, I applied, motivated by the challenge and the opportunity to study at Oxford if I were accepted.

I couldn’t be happier that I took the chance. Even though going abroad affects everyone differently, I strongly believe it’s an overwhelmingly positive experience for the majority of those who choose to go. In my case, studying overseas for the year reinvigorated my intellectual curiosity and allowed me to reexamine my aspirations and explore Europe. But most importantly, having an entire year gave me the time I needed to assimilate and enjoy another culture.

I recognize I had the advantage of a common language, unlike many students, but I still faced vast cultural disparities that exist between England and America which forced me out of my comfort zone, and while I didn’t realize it then, I spent my entire first term adjusting to life in England. Having spent the previous two months in Brazil, I thought I was prepared for anything I might encounter, but England and Oxford presented challenges I believe most students who live abroad in a non-homestay capacity undergo.

Since my program was comprised of only 10 students, I was forced to make friends with British students, cope with a non-buffet style meal plan (sorry, only in America), manage a budget, learn how to work in a non-lecture based University system and balance academics and my desire to experience everything.

Going abroad forced me to grow up in a way Tufts never could have. Although I considered myself an independent and cultured person before I left, at Oxford I had to learn to live alone and by the rules of a different culture. Even though my program provided resources, the office was based nearly two hours away in London and my parents were only reachable via Skype with a five or six-hour time difference. Studying and living somewhere turned out to be completely different than simply visiting a destination; I was no longer a voyeur but an active member of society and, despite the unique challenges this presents, it was extraordinarily rewarding, academically and personally. 

Sometimes all it takes is a little push, so if you have any hesitations about going abroad, I urge you to reconsider and go for as long as you can. It was easily one of the best experiences I’ve had while at Tufts, and I’m sure if you go, it will be for you too.

 

Carolina Maria Reyes is a senior majoring in international relations. She can be reached at Carolina.Reyes@tufts.edu.

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