When I transferred schools a few years back, one of the unexpected consequences was that my plans to study abroad, a dream I'd had for years, suddenly seemed uncertain. I had plenty of credits, but transferring from a public college to a specialized communications school had made my schedule air-tight; I only had room for a specific group of courses, and the idea of taking even one class that didn't fill a requirement, as often is the case when one studies abroad, was out of the question. So, when junior year came along and all my friends went off to Europe to take Modern Flamenco or Wine Tasting 101, I stayed put, hoping that maybe, somehow, I'd be able to study abroad before graduation rolled around.
And thanks to intense planning, double-filling courses, and a few sessions with my advisor that may or may not have involved begging, I got my wish — well, sort of. I learned that in the fall of 2014, my first semester of senior year, I'd get the chance to study abroad in Prague. Of course, I was thrilled — who wouldn't be, to spend three months gallivanting around Europe for the sake of their "education?" — but I was also worried.
I'd be going abroad as a senior, when nearly everyone else I knew who went away did it at least a year before. Would it be awkward to be older than everyone? Would I miss out on end-of-college activities? Would I look back and wish I had just gone over a summer or something instead of taking off the second-to-last semester of my college education?
As it turns out, though, being a senior abroad is pretty great, and a month into my program, I wouldn't want it any other way. Here are seven great reasons to study abroad as a senior.
You're Already Legal
Or, in my case (dammit, November birthday), you'll be legal by the time you come back to the States. There are few things in life better than being able to get a drink without being carded, accosted, or stared at until the man at the door realizes that yes, it is your face on that ID. While some juniors may be 21 by the time they come back home, plenty of them still have months to wait. Do you know how frustrating it is to be able to drink without issue for three months, and then, for the next year, be forced to fish out your sister's fake ID just to order a freakin' beer? I don't. Because I'll be legal.
You'll Get the best advice
By the time I left for Prague, I was armed with a mile-long list of every bar in Paris, hostel in Amsterdam, and dance club in Barcelona that I just had to see (whether or not I had any intention of actually visiting those cities) thanks to all my friends who'd studied abroad the year before. Annoying, but helpful.
You'll Feel Wise and Mature
Having a late birthday means that I'm rarely, if ever, the oldest of my peers. In fact, usually, I'm one of the youngest. Yet here, surrounded by college juniors, I'm finally one of the oldest and wisest. You'd think it would be annoying, but being around them has actually been kind of empowering. Not to mention, the fact that I'm more mature as I'm studying abroad has helped me appreciate the experience more.
You Can Pretend Real Life is Far, Far Away
Graduating college? Applying for jobs? Becoming a functioning, tax-paying human being? If you're home during senior year, it feels so close — but if you're thousands of miles away, running around Rome and eating your way through Brussels? All those scary, intimidating things seem blessedly irrelevant, if only for a few short months.
You already Know Yourself Pretty Well
Sure, it's only a year difference, but there's still a big change between what you're like at 20 and what you're like at 21. These are the years that help us figure out who we are, and speaking for myself, the kind of study abroad experience I would've had as a junior would've been a lot different than the one I'm having now. The older you get, the better you know your likes and dislikes, your comfort zone and limits. As a senior, I feel like I have a pretty good sense of how I want to spend my time, and am far past the well-I-don't-really-want-to-go-out-but-I-feel-like-I'm-supposed-to stage of college.
You know you're Not Missing Out on Anything
Second semester senior year is when all the preemptive nostalgia happens. There's final classes, yearbooks, Senior Week — all the things you actually want to be present for during the last few months of school. But first semester? Nothing. Happens. It's just junior year part two, except that everyone's old and sad and already worrying about failing at adulthood. You'll be glad to get away.
You'll End College on a High Note
Imagine looking back at your final days in college and remembering that you spent the first half of the year traveling the world and the second half spending time with your closest friends. Not a bad idea, right?
Image: Daniel Foster/Flickr; Tumblr (7)