To study abroad or not to study abroad: An internal debate

“Ellie, what the heck do you want?”


As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself having to make decisions — meaningful, somewhat large-scale life choices — more and more frequently. I’ve come to the realization that I’m utterly terrible at them, often having to ask myself, “Ellie, what the heck do you want?” — and still find myself without a resolution.

The most recent issue that has left me soul-searching is the “To Study Abroad or Not To Study Abroad” debate. As application deadlines for the spring 2019 semester approach, I’ve drawn up a few points of concern.

I’ll begin with my reasons for maintaining my American lifestyle here at the University.

Studying abroad sounds hard

Let’s be frank — I can be a bit shy and studying abroad just sounds plain old difficult sometimes. I experienced a bit of a culture shock when I moved to the East Coast for college, and anyone who knew me when I was 18 knows I was initially a bit of a trainwreck. Finding new friends and building a new life for yourself can be a challenge, especially when you don’t have a friend with you. And since that’s likely what I’d be doing — as I wouldn’t be enrolling in a University-sponsored program — it seems the potential social costs might outweigh the benefits.

Foxfield, formals, basketball season, etc.

FOMO is a real issue that I think everyone has encountered from time to time, and it’s only ever compounded by the influence of social media. If I’m galavanting through Belgium and Croatia, will I still be envious when I see people’s Foxfield photos? Date functions and formals are something to look forward to now, but will I really miss them if I have copious amounts of croissants or paella in my immediate vicinity? 


It kind of feels like just as I’ve found my social niches here in Charlottesville, I’m thinking about leaving them all behind. What will I do without Kaila reminding me to recycle or Victoria serving as DJ so that I don’t ever have to have the daunting responsibility of having the AUX?

Of course, my lack of direction brings me to an inevitable rebuttal — reasons why studying abroad is an amazing decision that I absolutely should make.


It has come to my attention that some students at the University, as well as an entire sorority house, have been infected with what I can only describe as my greatest fear in life — lice. Personally, I think we should’ve left these little buggers back in the trenches of World War I, or at least back in the fifth grade. And as someone who had a rather gnarly infestation of my own at the age of 14, this seems like an entirely valid reason in and of itself to flee Charlottesville.

The C-Ville time warp

Although the thought of missing out on life here in Charlottesville leaves me feeling antsy and nervous, when you really think about it, everything in Charlottesville stays relatively the same semester to semester. Trin 3 will always be Trin 3. You can keep up with the latest friend drama, hookups and embarrassments via Facetime. The dumpling truck will be there to serve you a day and a half’s worth of carbs. I don’t foresee any sort of paradigm shift that could fundamentally alter everything I hold dear about the University, so maybe leaving for a semester wouldn’t be a big deal.


This word finds itself adhered to about 40 percent of female first-years’ laptop cases, and yet we often forget to stop and think about it. To me it seems that the greatest reason to go abroad is to find that renewed sense of adventure, that “I am on the precipice of everything I ever wanted, yet I have absolutely no idea what’s around the corner” kind of feeling. Even though I’m an immensely happy third-year who has managed to (finally) find her so-called “place” within this wonderful, amazing, everything-I-ever-wanted University, it’s all starting to feel a bit rote. I’ve actually managed to get just a smidge bored with constantly feeling happy and secure. And that, coupled with my innate fear of “I should have”s, is enough to make me think that studying abroad might be the best choice I could make.

So, long story short — there’s really no wrong choice here. While I’m infinitely lucky to have two options that are so completely amazing, I’m left entirely conflicted between them.

“What’s she gonna do?!” you think to yourself, as you sip your morning coffee and scroll through The Cavalier Daily’s interface.

And the answer is ... I’m going to make an appointment with a study abroad advisor, apply and see what happens. Maybe I’ll get in and decide to go. Maybe I’ll get cold feet and reject the offer. But I’m going to maximize my options, and do as most college students do — procrastinate instead.

Ellie Hanson is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at 

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