I have a confession to make. You see, sometime last year I got the idea in my head that I needed to mix things up a little bit. I was getting tired of the daily routine of ‘attending’ Yale and believed that maybe my interests could best be served someplace else. As a sophomore, there is all this talk about how difficult junior year is. Apparently, you suddenly realize you need to figure everything out like what your major is, what graduate exam you’re going to take (LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, IBank), who from the Yale ranks you’re going to marry, and where exactly in New York City you’ll live after graduation. With my OCD now in full effect, I realized that I was suddenly growing up and making determinations about a future about which I was uncertain. So around March of this year, I made a decision. I chose to delay reality for just a little bit longer.
I called my parents.
“Mom, Dad–I think I need a breather from Yale.”
My mom, Ginay, begins to freak out, “Oy vey–son, you were the golden boy of [insert high school here], and you love Yale so much. Frank–what is he talking about?”
I respond before my dad makes the decisive call of supporting wife or alienating golden boy son, “I do love Yale. But I also feel that there is a whole other world out there. I don’t want to leave Yale, I just think I may want to do some studying or research somewhere else for a term. I want to study abroad.”
Mom quickly responds, “Oh, but Blake, you’re an American, you’re Jewish, and there is a war going on.”
Well, we won the war (sort of) and although I still remain both Jewish and American, I’ve chosen to study abroad this spring at Cambridge. But everyone at Yale has likely thought about studying abroad, thought about the friends you hate for studying abroad or thought about it after your friends returned from studying abroad. Either you were jealous of their fantastic experiences or you wanted to physically assault them because “Americans are so materialistic.”
Studying abroad is arguably one of the more difficult decisions a student at Yale has to make. Upon entering Yale, I was confident that I would never want to leave. Four years is not a very long time, as many graduating seniors can attest. Fearing regret, I thought to myself that the opportunity to study abroad was a unique one. After assessing my language abilities (Spanish, Italian, broken English), I narrowed down the choices. Personally, as a history and international studies double major, I decided studying in England would provide me with the ability to get the most out of the experience. Not to mention, I could legally order a beer six months before my 21st. In picking a location, I realized [insert developing country] was not for me. I was more a Europe type of guy. A hop-on-the-Eurorail-to-visit-a-Yale-friend-studying-in-Berlin-for-her-birthday-type of guy. Being the anglophile I am, I chose to hop on a train to Cambridge, England, but having been reminded of the Atlantic Ocean’s continued existence, I booked a flight. Come on, not counting the English, who doesn’t love Tony Blair?
Now, please let me clear some things up about us study abroad people. For example, if I am studying abroad in the spring that does not mean I am not here in the fall. No, I do not want to live in the double since I am only here one term. No, I do not want to pass on leadership positions for the coming fall. No, I do not want to be forgotten until next year because I am not here in the spring. Come on, don’t punish us just because you suckers aren’t strolling the beaches of Costa Rica, studying firsthand from the Churchill Archives, or dancing in a far sketchier nightclub than Toad’s in Rio de Janeiro. Listen, we still have access to Yale mail so please don’t write us off! I’ll send you a jpeg of Big Ben.
Secondly, I now know from personal experiences and the comments of friends who are studying abroad that people begin to think something is wrong with those who study abroad. You may not be aware of this but people at Yale talk:
“Oh I heard Sarah’s studying abroad. Rumor has it that her roommates and her don’t get along.”
Or, “James is so anti-American. He always speaks in French and apparently hates the Yale Corporation. He’s going to France where he claims unions are better supported.”
Let me clarify: my decision to leave for a semester is not because I am having a nervous breakdown, hate New Haven or find faults with the quality of education here at Yale. Come on, I’m a Yale tour guide — of course I love Yale!
Lastly, our friends are concerned that the relationships will suffer as a result of us being gone. Our Yale friends are one of a kind. Listen, few who study abroad deny the difficulties you will have because a friend of yours has chosen to study abroad. But what about us? Remember, we are far away, possibly in a Third World country; we have concerns, we have worries, but no, it’s always, “Oh you’re going to have so much fun in Kabul!”
In short, please, take note of your study abroad friends and their valid concerns. We are making a big decision to leave Yale. Everyone knows it is the greatest place to study in the world. But sometimes we need to remind ourselves why we love Yale so much. Also, if you want us to bring you back a souvenir, you better start being more considerate.
Blake Marks Landro is a junior in Saybrook College and will be studying at Cambridge in the spring.