Erin Stephens/Old Gold & Black
Erin Stephens/Old Gold & Black

To spend a semester overseas or stay stateside?

“At first you’re scared,” a friend explained to me. “Then you’re brave.”

In just a few words, this adage captured my own semester›s worth of feelings and experiences I felt while  studying abroad. But the beauty of studying abroad or staying stateside lies in the fact that each person’s college experience is uniquely their own.

For some students, the chance to study overseas and the many resources that Wake Forest offers to make it possible may have sealed the deal on the college decision-making process. For others, spending a semester abroad has never once been a blip on the radar when planning their four years.

With programs offered in over 200 cities and 70 countries worldwide, the choices available for a summer or semester abroad can be both overwhelming and exciting all at once — much like being there for yourself.

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When studying abroad you’ve committed to living in a foreign city, surrounded by new languages, aromas, cultural norms and ways of life. The cross-cultural experience of a lifetime is at your fingertips and it’s what you make of it. You can spend your weekends checking cities off of your bucket list or getting to know the daily lives of the people in your new home away from home.

For some students it can be hard to adjust — even if  Instagram and Facebook posts  seem to suggest that they are having the time of their lives all of the time. Studying abroad can have its ups and downs and don’t let social media fool you. But it’s also a time to explore your interests while  falling deeper in love with a city every day. Spending a season of your life in a foreign country welcomes the ebb and flow of mixed emotions and an experience that is never stagnant. Some days are really good and some days are really bad, just as they are on this side of the pond. But challenging yourself and leaning into those moments that are hard can teach you more about yourself than you ever knew. You can return to the states having mastered the art of public transportation, the responsibility of managing a budget on your own or even becoming fluent in a foreign language.

But you can also return home with your expenses run dry and a scholarly wake-up call while getting back in the swing of “Work Forest.” For most students, these caveats are well worth it. For some, however, missing the hallmark “Fall in the Forest” and the traditions that come with it or a season of ACC sports spent cheering on the Deacs is not. In the end, the decision is yours. Each year there are those who decide to study overseas and those who decide to stay near our Mother so Dear.

It is important to remember that first and foremost, you have time to make your choice. There are endless options if you do chose to take advantage of the programs that the Center for Global Studies and Programs offers. But it is equally important to remember that if you chose to stay stateside during your time at Wake Forest, you will still grow. No matter your geographical location, you will continue to learn new things about yourself and you will be changed for the better because of it.

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