I knew that when I got to college I wanted to study abroad, so I made it a point to apply to schools that had strong study abroad programs, and Middlebury seemed to fit the bill wonderfully.
Participants in the C.V. Starr-Middlebury Schools Abroad don’t just study a language — they live it.
With more study abroad propaganda than most schools (how could I pass up going to a school that sent such smiley, racially-diverse students to study in places as exotic as Beijing and Paris?) Middlebury seemed the perfect place to satiate my study abroad dreams.
And now that I’m a sophomore I can finally begin to make plans for my time abroad, which is a bit more difficult than I thought it would be when I was a wide-eyed high school senior. There are decisions to be made: will I study abroad for a semester or a year, English speaking or not, which country, which continent, will I need to go to language school, will I go to a country where I can find classes that fulfill requirements for my major, how will financial aid figure into my decision, etc.
Not so simple, eh?
At a school like Middlebury—where 60% of students study abroad during their junior year—study abroad always just seemed like part of the plan. You come to Midd, you learn a language, you study abroad for a semester or, even better yet, a year and you leave with a beautifully wrapped culturally relevant gift of perspective.
But, as the time for me to apply draws near, I have begun to question this shove-it-down-your-throat perspective to study abroad that Middlebury sometimes serves. At other schools, studying abroad is generally just an option but at Midd, it can sometimes feel like it’s an obligation. In discussing the idea of not going abroad to fellow students, the general response has, 9 times out of 10, been Oh, you have to go! You’re a Midd Kid! And this idea isn’t just propagated by the students alone; the faculty here stress (and I think overly so) not just the importance of a semester abroad, but spending an entire year away from Middlebury.
But, If it’s true that I only have four years at this place, why would I spend a semester or a year away from it?
Spain (or France or Germany or Australia) will always be there, waiting for me to visit, but getting to experience college in its entirety (in the typical, four-years, parties, dorm rooms, cafeteria food kind of way) is a once in a lifetime kind of experience. And while I know that being able to live in an apartment in Paris and have the opportunity to explore its streets until I know them like the back of my hand is a once in a life time experience as well, is it necessary that I experience this while I’m currently enrolled as Middlebury College undergraduate?
I write this in order to gain the perspective of students who have studied abroad for a year, a semester, or not at all, as I, and my fellow sophomores, attempt to make decisions about our study abroad futures.