Everyone has a dream they fear won't come true until one day it becomes a reality. Here's the story of how I realized mine.
I have wanted to travel the world for a while now. Not because of the intrigue, but because of this desire to chase life and to explore the feel of different people, places, and energies. Until recently, I have been content with changing my environment, in lieu of traveling abroad. I went to boarding school across the country for a couple of years, and then when I returned to New York my family moved, so I got to experience a change of scenery. For a while, this has been enough.
However, starting last year, I’ve had this urge to push myself further. It probably stems from a combination of maturing, learning more about myself, and growing tired of college. If I had my license I could take weekend trips to new cities on the East Coast, but unfortunately, I don’t. So I had to think of another solution.
What did I do? I dropped a concentration and I decided to apply for study abroad! If all goes well, instead of staying in school for an extra year, I'll get to see Europe and graduate a semester early. Sounds like a good deal to me!
Why is this a big deal?
In the past I have had friends question my desire to travel, because “if I was really passionate, I would find a way”. The thing is, that’s not how life works. Not everyone has the privilege to pick up and take off for a summer, even if it’s only a few weeks.
As a first-generation student and a minority, I’ve had to work hard for my accomplishments. Not that I identify myself solely by these aspects, but the reality is my scholarship to boarding school wasn’t handed to me, nor were my internships or jobs. I have had to build my own network from scratch and be proactive to create change in my life. Therefore, working hard and throwing myself into my commitments took a higher priority than seeing the world. I refuse to feel bad for this.
What does travel mean to me?
Traveling is an opportunity for learning and growth. I love the feeling of entering a new place. The mystery of every stranger around you and the ambiguity of what connects you to them, beyond being in the same place at the same time. I love the inescapable diversity - the range of personalities you likely won't meet again, at least not the same way you once have. I guess that’s it; I am attracted to the irreplicable individuality of each person and each place. That’s what motivates me to move. That’s the reason I seek change.
So although I haven't had the opportunity to travel, I also haven't been miserable about it, because diversity is a multidimensional concept. Even my current school which would score pretty low a scale ranking homo- to hetero- geneous populations, has exposed me to a range of personalities. Each of which has allowed me to learn something about myself that I may not have realized otherwise. I don't always love the reality of life in a place with limited racial and socio-economic diversity, but I'd be lying if said I failed to grow here.
Do I have any regrets?
By now, I've decided to create change in my life and I'm hoping it has a revolutionary impact. There is no way I will voluntarily choose to reverse my decision. Up until last year, I didn't even think I'd have the chance to do this! So there's no way I'd choose to ruin my opportunity now.
One of my pet peeves about college is it’s structured in a way that feels limiting. Especially as a business student, there is a social mindset which screams for you to do as much as you can in the least amount of time, while avoiding things that don’t add value. I almost got stuck in that headspace, until I reclaimed control and redefined what value meant to me. I had to make a choice: be happy or follow the crowd. And so far, I have no regrets about my decision.
If you’re in a similar environment, and it makes you reconsider listening to your inner voice, take time to yourself to reflect on both frames of mind. What are others telling you and what is your soul telling your self? Trust me, contemplation helps. You may even work out a compromise, which is what I call a real lesson. What better way to apply your mind, than to fuse what you have learned with what you know to be true? It’s critical thinking and innovation in the truest sense. No matter what inner conflict you’re battling today, take time to think of a solution, and then make it work! Make a choice to make a change, because there is almost always a feasible way.
How can you graduate early and study abroad?
Sometimes you have to empathize with your future self, when you don't feel like following through in the moment. For instance, in high school I took AP's, which set me ahead a semester in college. Before choosing a school, I took a ton of aptitude tests and spent time to explore myself. This helped me narrow my interests which I used to choose a school. Once I got to University, I created a schedule to outline my classes for all four years. Of course, I couldn't stick to it but I updated the schedule as time went along, and ultimately finished all the core classes for my major, my minor, and my school's gen-eds ahead of schedule. These decisions, have all impacted my ability to study abroad.
To be honest, I still have to submit my essay for the program application. However, I've put this into the universe and I've committed to seeing it through. Everything is organized, because I planned in advance. It is always better to dedicate your all to something and follow it through, than to half-ass it in fear of failure. Failure is a much greater possibility when you don't invest the amount of effort your dream or goal deserves.
Planning is Key
If you are also interested in travel or study abroad, do not undermine the value of planning. The main reason I can take this trip is because I planned my college career and my classes. I was able to visit my global initiatives and advising offices for approval before the application opened up, and I was able to connect with professors for recommendation letters, before the distance of a break diminished the relationships we were able to build over the year.
Prolonging the Magic
It’s crazy how life works out. I know this will be one of the last extended trips I’ll be able to take for a while, because I have loads of debt to pay off once I return to the working world. However, life has a way of embedding into your being. Each place you go becomes a part of you and I know everything that matters about the places I see will stay with me even after I return home.
Best of all, there’s always a way to revive the magic of change. Maybe I'll be able to extend my adventures through weekend trips in America once I return. After all, life’s adventures don’t always have to be grand for you to have a good time.
Fingers crossed this works out, because I haven’t wanted something so badly in a while.