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Making the Difficult Decision to Study Abroad

Bologna, Italy Sophie Demetriades

Written by  November 12, 2015

When a pros and cons list doesn't work, Sophie goes with her gut.

Making my decision to study abroad for a year has probably been the most challenging choice I’ve faced to date.

Before beginning my time at the University of Leicester, the idea of studying abroad couldn’t have been more appealing to me. The thought of travelling to a new place and immersing myself into another culture has always been up there on my bucket list. However, with the pressure to finalize my decision fast approaching, the idea had lost some of its initial sparkle. As a result, I was in a state of indecision.

So what was holding me back? I attribute my uncertainty to a natural fear of change—as I’m sure most students feel when faced with the prospect of embarking on a yearlong expedition, miles away from the comforts of home. For me, no longer regularly being able to see my family, my friends and my boyfriend was a difficult reality for me to accept.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “If only I had had that opportunity when I was your age,” I would certainly be able to scrape myself out of the ever-deepening void of my student debt.

Even though I was in an arduous state of decision-making, it’s safe to say my parents didn’t need convincing at all. On the contrary, they were suspiciously eager for me to go. Obviously, I know their enthusiasm was really due to wanting me to grasp an opportunity that may not present itself again, especially once I’ve been swallowed into the daily grind of full-time employment. (Though, their eagerness did cause me to think that if I had a dollar for every time I heard, “Oh, if only I had had that opportunity when I was your age,” I would certainly be able to scrape myself out of the ever-deepening void of my student debt.)

After listening to the opinions of others, I realized my choice must be solely my own. So, with the time nearing to fill in the blank forms that would shape my future, I decided to draw up a pros and cons list. I began with the cliché pros for going abroad, such as it looking good on my CV. And, of course, there’s always the privilege of being able to say I studied for a year at the oldest university in the world, in a city which is home to the creation of bolognese.

The cons, on the other hand, mostly related to the people I would have to leave behind. Unfortunately, the list was pretty inconclusive as I finished with the same number of pros as cons. However, it did help me realize that it was best not to fret over my decision being “right” or “wrong,” as there really was no “wrong” choice.

If I stayed in the UK, I would have a great time experiencing my final year of university with my friends and family, but going abroad would be a brilliant experience too. So, my decision was really a case of "do I play it safe and stay at home with the certainty of a fantastic but final year at university? Or do I dare pluck up the courage to embark on a journey, where only uncertainty awaits me?"

This sense of uncertainty sparked my curiosity, reigniting my desire to travel and explore, which is why I ultimately made my decision to study at the University of Bologna. It was a tough decision to make, but once I made up my mind, I had no doubts.

In terms of family, I would miss them, but I know they would always be there for me if I needed them, equally those of my “true” friends would remain exactly that. If anything I can look back at my last two years of university in England with ironic optimism, a sentiment no better expressed than through the words of A.A. Milne: “How lucky I am to have something so difficult to leave behind.”

The magnitude of my decision to study abroad hasn’t hit me yet; I’m assuming this will happen when I’m sitting in my new, unfamiliar room, in a strange setting. Yes, I predict there will be times when I feel down over who and what I have left behind. However, I feel confident that I will look back on this experience and be proud of what I have achieved, and once settled, I will enjoy it too.

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Sophie Demetriades

Sophie Demetriades has begun her third year with the University of Leicester by joining the Erasmus program to study in Bologna, Italy for a year abroad. Her classes at the Università di Bologna include English Literature and Italian language.

Website: sophiedemetriades.wordpress.com

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