Justin’s (Unofficial) Tour of Pomona College: Study Abroad

Hello my fellow tour-goers!

Before I start my post this week, I’d like to thank everyone that has talked to me about my blog. It’s humbling knowing that we actually get people reading our posts – for me, it makes me feel like my life is actually interesting in some way, shape or form – and I’m thankful for your feedback. From Pomona College employees to interviewees to fellow bloggers here, it’s nice to see that a target audience has been found.

Back to the story at hand though.

If you had asked me my freshman year if I was going to go abroad, I’d have laughed in your face and said something along the lines of, “Obviously, doesn’t everyone?” Japan was the dream and, as you can tell from my last post, that didn’t work out to well. Italy was the next dream, which, as you can probably guess, didn’t work too smoothly either. So, I studied abroad in the great Inland Empire. #ie2013

That’s right. I didn’t leave the confines of California.

Before, I was asked “Why Japan?” Now, I’m asked why nothing at all. I get sad eyes and slight sighs of commiseration, and there always seems to be some form of underlying questioning nature: If Pomona has 50 programs in 31 different countries to take advantage of, you couldn’t find one that worked for you?

All of us who engage with the question of Study Abroad do so with our own sets of goals and reasons. For some people, the programs work out amazingly. I had friends go just about everywhere in the world and love every second of it. For others, it doesn’t work. I had friends go everywhere and similarly didn’t love every second of it.

But then, there’s the population of students like myself who don’t go abroad. There are a lot of reasons why I didn’t go abroad – not any that I feel particularly inclined to discuss here, as they are relatively personal – but a lot of thought went into my decision to not go abroad. And I will be the first to say: It’s OK. It’s OK not going abroad. It’s OK staying in Claremont the whole time. It’s OK to be in the social sciences and not have a picture of yourself on Facebook with a malnourished child or an exotic animal or a touristy landmark from some cosmopolitan mingling of worlds. It’s OK to not have a Study Abroad Blog (though I guess I’ve replaced that with this). It’s OK to be set in your ways, to be stubborn, and most importantly, it’s always ok to admit that this isn’t the right time for you to be a trailblazer.

I spoke at a conference this semester. I produced a 25-page research paper on human trafficking legislation in the European Union that was well-received by my peers and professors alike and I presented it to an audience of some of the smartest individuals I have ever met. I was a research assistant. I took classes in areas I had never engaged with before, met some amazing people, did some amazing things, and, most importantly, was able to make the most of my time spent staying in the country. Claremont has a rich and lively number of resources, and it’s hard enough as is to take advantage of them all in four full years.

For some, abroad isn’t the most feasible option. For others, it is. And I guess I wanted to post about this topic because I don’t want people to feel ashamed like I did in saying they aren’t going abroad. I don’t want people to force themselves into a situation they aren’t ready for or aren’t totally comfortable with to try and fit into some mold of attempting to appease the masses. Because in the end, if I have learned one thing in the semester I stayed here, it’s that your heart is the most important thing. And if you don’t follow what you think is best for yourself, there’ll be a lot of pain on the other side.

So don’t feel like you need to go abroad, and don’t feel like you shouldn’t, either. It’s your choice, and no one but yourself can make it for you.

Until next time,