Diana Marin's Study Abroad Experience
"When I was a kid I had always dreamt of going abroad my junior year of college. I would imagine myself grown up and chic, with a long scarf and a travel guide in my hand, ready to seek adventure. But somewhere in between 6th grade and sophomore year of college that dream had fallen to the wayside. I was caught up in my classes, clubs, and friends, and the quickly approaching deadline caught me unaware. That is, until a friend came up and asked me if I would be studying abroad next year. I answered “No” and then suddenly caught myself. When had I decided not to study abroad?
Well, I began to reason with myself, Harvard has so much to offer, why would I spend a semester away? Plus I have such a great group of friends here, I really can’t leave them. What if I have trouble making new friends? Besides, I’ve already traveled before, why do I need to go again? The conversation in my head continued. The more I discussed the issue of studying abroad with myself, the more I realized how conflicted I was. On one side, I wanted to be that intrepid voyager, and on the other, I wanted to stay at Harvard. But as I thought more, one thought resounded in my mind, When had I decided to cut my dreams short?
That voyager, who studied and explored the world, she could really be me if I made the decision. There are so many programs, all across the world; the adventures I had dreamt of were all up for the choosing, my choosing. With a sigh of Ok, fine that stubborn part of myself that just wanted to stay comfortable at Harvard retreated and I was left with a joyous excitement that propelled me to go forth and explore the world, starting with submitting my application.
That’s how my adventure began. I would go to France, attempt to study the language during the summer but get distracted by the countless festivals on the streets of Avignon, then head off to the countryside and explore the quiet hills next to Spain, spend a month backpacking across seven different cities making instant friends on train rides and in hostels, and continue on to Paris where I would spend weekends munching on baguettes and philosophizing about life while sitting on the bridges of the Seine. Even thinking back on it now, the summer and semester I spent studying abroad seem wondrous, even better than my 6th grade imaginings, and that’s because I have never felt as alive as I did when I was traveling. It’s not just the amazing sights or the fascinating cultures that make me love traveling. It is the knowledge that despite how hard it was to take that first step forward, I did it and I pursued my dream. Life is so thrilling when you realize that it’s you who holds the reins. And so, if you’re wondering if studying abroad is for you, start by just asking yourself “If next semester I had the opportunity to be anywhere in the world, where would I be?” You never know where the answer might take you."
Email: dmarin [at] fas.harvard.edu