On Selfishness and Sacrifices

My decision to stay in France for a full year was, in a way, a very selfish decision. I knew that by going abroad for a full year, I was sacrificing some things: time spent with friends back on campus, a Tombs Night on my 21st birthday, campus events. I wouldn’t be an RA. I wouldn’t be tutoring. I wouldn’t be able to run for any leadership positions in clubs. I wouldn’t be able to take internships. I would be trading Georgetown’s top-notch faculty for classes in a language I didn’t totally understand. I would be giving up my job to live off of my savings and, if it came to it, student loans.

All of these predictions did of course turn out to be accurate, and then some. One of the things I didn’t forsee was how difficult it is to get things done from across the ocean. I can’t meet my roomie for lunch to talk to her about where we’re living next year. I missed out on the chance to get free housing through a campus job thanks to the simple fact that I couldn’t interview in person. Trying to write an honors thesis proposal without having ever met my advisor in person has been one of the more frustrating academic experiences I’ve had in some time. My world would undoubtedly be simpler if I were still in DC, and I would be moving forward with my life in a way that I’m not sure I am here.

But would things be better? Would I be happier? That’s something I’m not so sure about.

Which is why I say that choosing to study abroad all year was selfish—though maybe “selfish” isn’t quite the right word. Maybe “frivolous” would be better, even “irrational.” After summers of being an office assistant instead of taking glamorous (and résumé-boosting) internships, months spent working multiple jobs at once, and countless mediocre Flex Dollar-ed lunches, I finally chose the enjoyable over the practical. I chose the immediate benefit rather than the future one. I wagered that the gains would be worth it, and I don’t think I was wrong—I wasn’t ready to go back in December, and I’m certain that had I not studied abroad at all, I would have spent all year asking myself, “What if?”

I’m glad, ultimately, that I decided to stay in Lyon for a full year—even if it was a bit impractical. When I go home in May, that will be the time to make reasonable decisions, to think about my résumé, to put being a responsible adult over being a happy college student. But while I’m in France? That time is for me, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

This piece is cross-posted on the Georgetown Study Abroad Blog, where you can read about the experiences of Georgetown students studying across the globe.


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