I’ve been at NYU Prague for about a month and a half, and so far I’ve been to three different countries, with plans to go to at least four more. I know that I’ll look back and remember all the amazing experiences I’ve had, but I can’t help but think about the people who haven’t had similar experiences.
When you’re at NYU, there’s a fair amount pressure to study abroad. Over 40 percent of the student body studies abroad, according to NYU’s website. A huge factor involved is also the FOMO — hearing about your peers amazing experiences and knowing how easy it is to go to one of NYU’s global sites makes it hard to find a reason to say no. After all, when will you have another chance in your life to live in another country for months at a time?
Once you’re abroad, you’re expected to take full advantage of such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This essentially means traveling to as many countries and cities you can. Last weekend was one of the first weekends I’ve actually spent in Prague, and it’s one of the only few where I get to do so.
My friend was visiting from NYU Paris for the weekend and I was embarrassed that I knew so little about the city I’ve been in for over a month. I got lost on streets I’ve been on dozens of times and had to keep resorting to my phone to direct us.
This made me realize how little I’ve taken advantage of the opportunity to be abroad. Even if I have been to so many different places already, there’s only so much you can take in over a weekend. I’ve been so focused on checking off my study abroad bucket list that I haven’t fully appreciated the incredible city I’m living in. My brother studied abroad in Copenhagen and one of his biggest regrets was spending so little time there while he could. Why is it so frowned upon to stay and explore the city you’re living in?
A globe-trotting lifestyle may look glamorous from someone’s Instagram account or Facebook album, but there’s much more than what appears on screen. The monetary expense, for example, is an unphotographed burden. Even when hostels and flights or bus tickets are relatively cheap, it definitely adds up. Not to mention the huge amounts of money you spend by going out for meals in addition to the cost for museums, souvenirs and shopping. Several of my friends and I had been planning a weekend trip to Amsterdam and it was upsetting to add up the costs and realize it just wasn’t a possibility. The flight and hostel alone were going to be over $400 per person. I’ve had to reevaluate several of my other trips as well.Travel is highly expensive luxury and privilege that few can enjoy.
When you see everyone else spending their weekends in amazing cities, you start to feel like you’re missing out or not taking advantage of your semester abroad.
The idea of wanderlust is good in theory, but the idea that you need to be well-traveled in order to be cultured isn’t fair to the majority of the population who can’t afford such a luxury. Not to mention the perception that you need to travel to be a good writer, photographer or artist. Inspiration doesn’t have to come from spending thousands of dollars on plane tickets and hotels and art museums.
You should never feel that your experience, abroad or not, is in inferior to someone else’s. When you look back, you’re just going to remember the amazing times you had, regardless of where they were.
Email Gabby Brooks at [email protected].