Looking Ahead Without Forgetting What’s Behind: Studying Abroad

Lately, my life has felt like I’m flipping through the chapters in the book of my college life too fast for me to process what is happening.

Chapters One and Two: COVID-19

My first two semesters at New Paltz consisted of masks, bad food and lots of screen time. Everything was online, I made only a few friends who I did everything with and I found a few things to keep me busy when I wasn’t with them or doing work. I had a lot of free time to do as I pleased and I made the most of a bad situation.

Being completely on my own for the first time was as terrifying as it was exhilarating. I loved having my own room and being able to come and go as I please – but I knew I wasn’t completely on my own. My family was a short hour long drive away. Seeing as I had a car, it was not out of the ordinary for me to make an appearance at my brother’s baseball game or a parent’s birthday.

My first two semesters on campus were unique because I experienced them during the pandemic – between doing everything in my power to not get quarantined to getting knocked out by the vaccine, these semesters certainly were not what I expected college life to look like.

But I was ready for that to change.

Chapter Three: Fall 2021

My entire fall semester has been structured around four things: Soccer, the Oracle, figuring out what’s for dinner and homework. I planned every day out perfectly – down to the precise amount of time it would take me to walk from Humanities to my room if I took the long way so I could enjoy some music along the way. It never seemed like I had enough time in the day to see everyone or do everything I wanted to do.

That was my entire semester. Wake up, practice, class, eat waffles for breakfast, homework, dinner, more homework and have a little time before bed to read if I am lucky. Throw in games, Oracle meetings and sometimes, if the universe was feeling nice, I would have time to spend with my friends. I was busy, every second of every day – sometimes to the point where I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to not constantly feel overwhelmed.

Things change. Now soccer is over. I’m incredibly sad that I no longer have practices or team pasta nights. Words cannot describe the ache in my chest to see my favorite seniors leave the team for good. Walking off the field for the last time as a team together created an emotion beyond words. These were people I trained with, lost with and triumphed with. 

How can I say goodbye?

All good things come to an end – but this was way harder than I had imagined. It’s only been a few days but I already miss my busy schedule and running around to get everywhere I needed to be. Something about the structured chaos of my life brought me a sense of comfort and structure. If I were on campus next semester, my life would be similar.

But things change.

As of right now, I’m not planning on being at SUNY New Paltz next semester. I applied for and got into a university in Milan, Italy, for a once in a lifetime study abroad opportunity. Studying abroad is something I’ve dreamed about since I heard about it in high school. To get the opportunity to go to a new place with new people, new cultures and a whole new way of life is beyond exciting. 

If all goes well, I will be able to go. Plane tickets are expensive, so the odds of me coming back before the end of the semester are slim to none. On top of not being able to come home, Italy is in a much different time zone than New York. What will talking on the phone to my loved ones look like?

All good things come to an end, no matter how temporary that end may be. I won’t be gone forever, just a few months, but still – I never thought doing something I’ve always dreamed of would be so hard.

That’s the truth I never thought I’d admit; behind all my excitement for going away and seeing all the things I dreamed of, I’m terrified to leave everything I know behind and miss out on things I want to be here for.

My excitement about going abroad hasn’t been diminished by the concerns I have about being home. There are so many things I want to see while I’m away; I want to go to Rome, I want to see the Eiffel Tower in Paris, I want to see the Swiss mountains and walk the rainy streets of London. I want to learn how to speak the basics of another language and experience another culture. I have a bucket list of activities and things I want to do before I get on a plane back to New York.

But there’s always a little voice in the back of my head reminding me of all the things I will miss when I go.

When I come back, I bet my little brother will win the ‘who’s taller’ battle by inches. I bet my roommate will have a million and one stories to tell me that I wasn’t there to experience with her. I bet my family and friends will embrace me with open arms. I bet everyone will ask me about my experience – I just hope it turns out to be everything I wanted and more.

My point is, I have never been more excited and conflicted about the same thing. I’m following my dreams yet leaving everything I’ve ever known behind to do so. The semester isn’t over yet, so I still have time to surround myself with the people I love and do the things I love in New Paltz for another month until I say goodbye. Until next fall when I will once again start my hectic schedule with zero free time.

I’m excited for the change in tempo, but afraid the new tune won’t live up to the one of my dreams.

Chapter Four: The One In Italy

Stay tuned… 

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About Kyra Russo 45 Articles
Kyra Russo (she/her) is a third-year journalism major from East Greenbush, New York. She spent two and a half semesters as a Copy Editor and is now the Managing Editor. Besides the newspaper, she is on the women’s soccer team at SUNY New Paltz and participates in the Rising Hawks leadership program. You can reach her by emailing russok5@newpaltz.edu.