Tuesday, November 29, 2011

At a Safe Distance

In the last year, I've spent eight months in Ohio, two in Michigan, and two (split between Christmas Break, Spring Break, and the first half of June) at home.  Living eight to ten hours from home is painful at times.  I've missed out on my brother's sixteenth birthday, his football games, his many, many growth spurts, and the very handsome long hairstyle he sported this fall.  I've missed my mother's birthday and Mother's Day, my father's preaching and Father's Day, my friends, Thanksgiving, Easter, weddings, funerals, new cousins, theater productions at my old high school, and so much more.  As much as it hurts, missing out on those experiences makes me so much more thankful for the opportunities I do have to come home.  My family has done a lot to work around the distance.  For example, this Thanksgiving I had a change of plans that freed up my break.  I wanted to be with my family so they spent their time, money, and gas driving out to Ohio to pick me up and bring me home for the first time since June.  Additionally, when I'm at school, I can call my parents at any time and they'll talk to me even when I'm just being ridiculous or goofy.  Really, I live at a safe distance.  I'm very far away and miss out on a lot but that distance lets me have my independence and my own experiences while still being close enough to get home fairly easily if I need to.

Over break, I think my parents realized that this wouldn't be the case next year.  After our guests left on Thanksgiving we sat down to discuss my study abroad options.  The conversation revolved exclusively around my safety.  At the time, I was irritated because, as my parents pointed out, they were exposing my subconscious insecurities about studying abroad.  In retrospect, I see that the conversation was less about whether or not I could handle myself and be safe abroad and more about my parents' concern that if something should happen to me while abroad, they couldn't get to me quickly.  The reverse is true as well, if something should happen at home, I wouldn't be able to get back quickly.  That's terrifying for all of us, I think.  While my parents probably did, I certainly didn't realize just how alone I'll be next year.  Of course the study abroad programs all have excellent support networks and I'll make friends and have the best time of my life but it's not going to be the same.  Because of the time difference, I won't be able to call my parents whenever I want and if I feel homesick I can't just ask to come home over a break.  Essentially, I'm going to be stranded but I'm going to be fine and I'm going to love it.

This fall, a friend from home explained that the distance is only as great as you make it.  You can let it interfere and become this overwhelming, depressing thing or you can accept it as a challenge.  As usual, I plan to do the latter and I'm sure my family feels the same way.  It's going to be very different, I'll be living at a pretty unsafe distance, but as scary as that is it's also exciting!  This is an opportunity for so much creativity and fun in the way we keep in touch and support each other, there's so much possibility here and, trust me, I've already got more than a few tricks up my sleeve.  So, Mom, Dad, Will, Everybody, Me...don't worry.  Yes, the safety net is going away but the support system will still be there, stronger than ever, and that's really all I need!  There's going to be a lot of adjusting and probably more than a few nervous moments but we're all going to be just fine.  I know I never learned to ride a bike but just pretend I did and let me use this analogy: The training wheels are coming off but I'm still wearing my helmet!  I'll always wear my helmet.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Basics

We started our study abroad process at Kenyon a little over a month ago.  At the time, I was actually considering not going abroad because of several personal and academic issues.  Fortunately, my inner child would have none of that and kept poking at me until I agreed to work through or around everything that was troubling me and start the process.  As usual, my inner child was right and it took no time at all for those issues to resolve, get tucked safely away, and/or disappear completely.  Moral of the story: Listen to your inner child and If you have (or have had) even the faintest desire to study abroad, start the process.  I cannot stress this enough.  It is so much easier at any point in the process to decide  that you don't want to go after all and drop out than to realize too late that you wish you had applied.  John Greenleaf Whittier said, "For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been.'"  True for life, true for study abroad.  Even if you have reservations, if you've never thought about studying abroad, or don't think you can afford it I encourage you to at least get through the very basics of the process.
At Kenyon, the basics start with an informational meeting.  it's a pretty standard part of the process at a lot of schools and it's really very simple.  You go, you sit, they hand you an info sheet, and then give a brief overview of your school's programs and resources.  Quick, easy, and painless.  If it's offered, go to it.
For us, this meeting was followed a week later by a programs fair.  If your school offers a fair, the best way to approach it is to keep an open mind.  While it's good to have done a little research and have a general idea of what you're looking for, use that information as a guideline only.  Although I've known for a long time that I want to study Classics in the United Kingdom, I tried not to pigeonhole myself. At the fair, I picked up brochures from programs offering experiences in places I hadn't originally considered and collected information on Internship programs and programs for Arts Management as well as Classics.  While I've ended up sticking with my original plan, getting information on programs I hadn't considered before allowed me to think outside the box and reassured me that I was choosing to study Classics in the UK because I really wanted to and not because it was my only option.

Since the fair, I've been narrowing down program providers from that huge pile pictured above.  Hopefully, when I return to campus after Thanksgiving Break I'll have my first and second choice programs selected and be able to do my interview with the Off Campus Studies Center.
In the meantime, expect more updates here and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Latitude refers both to the horizontal lines used to determine a point's position North or South of the equator and an allowance for freedom of thought or action.  With greater latitude comes a broader range of possibilities and perspectives.  Study abroad gives you greater latitude in both senses.  As the process of applying to go abroad is currently a high priority for me, that will be the main focus of this blog.  For now, you'll mostly find updates on where I'm at in the application process.  Once I've gotten into a routine, I hope to add other resources including interviews with other students who are at various points in the study abroad process.  And then, provided that everything goes smoothly and I'm accepted into a program, I'll share my own experience abroad with you.
Be looking for a post on starting the application process in the next week!