Study Abroad or Stay in Love?


Published: January 31, 2008

Recently, I have noticed that my friends’ standard away messages on AIM, such as “In the shower” or  “Drinking,” are being replaced by a crop of impressive away messages bragging of their worldly travels. Some are written completely in Spanish, while others flash, “See you in Paris, suckers!”  I think, “Well, that’s not very nice,” as I jealously tell myself that my friends will simply be harassed by the natives and find themselves confused by the currency in the foreign country of their choice. I try to convince myself that I can do without these hassles.

Can an attached student-traveler stay true abroad, despite the appeal of smooth British talkers? (So Hee Lee Won/The Dallas Morning News/MCT)

Truth is, I’m struggling with the fact that I don’t want to do without experiencing life abroad. Theoretically, the answer is simple. I could apply for a fall semester study abroad program by March, and I would be good to go.  If only I maintained that single and independent mindset from my lonelier days, I could be signing myself away for three exciting months.

When I entered college, I promised myself I would be careful. I didn’t want to end up in a relationship, fall behind in my diary entries or ease into the predictable life of someone in love. I have always been cursed with the curiosity that those of the Beat Generation gave into carelessly each day. I am meant to wander, experience, and once I earn enough money from various random jobs, my plan was to write down all I see when I embark on various life-changing journeys. Despite my limited experience with sex, drugs and jazz, I held the same selfish beliefs as the experimental Beats, who unfaithfully pushed away any commitments that tied them down.

Surprisingly, I found someone who fit into my commitment-free fantasy world. He was from England, and I’d met him on a European cruise. His “well done” after I’d won the karaoke contest turned into weekly phone calls that cost up to $600. I was fascinated by his accent and loved it when he said, “I fancy you,” over and over again. During one of our many three-hour-long online conversations, we decided to make our relationship exclusive. When I wasn’t crossing oceans to see him, I crossed boundaries in New York City. Though my interactions were fairly harmless at first, I continued to date and flirt with local boys, despite their second-rate way with words.

Then, one day about a year ago, I met someone out of the blue who made me question and eventually change my wayward ways. An artistic, aspiring actor, Micah, attracted me with his passion and unceasing determination to win me over.  I ended my foreign fairytale romance, and hesitantly let Micah love me alone, and I him.

We’ve been together for a while now, and I speak of our love using the clichés that I’d previously feared. I call him my soul mate and truly believe that I will never find another like him. Despite these strong feelings, as I read my friend’s away messages, I feel that familiar longing to leave, if only for the chance to fill my journal easily, as an effortlessly interesting memoir. Now I find myself anxious and worried that if I do not go abroad, my personal imitation of Jack Kerouac’s, “On the Road,” will bore and fail. No one wants to read about true love and all of that nonsense.

When Micah heard that I was considering studying in London for the fall semester, he immediately offered alternatives. “What about Italy? You’re studying Italian and it makes more sense, right? Just go for a month in the summer!” I tell him about my favorite English writer Nick Hornby and the literary following that thrives in London. He replies, “Okay, well, if you think you’ll learn a lot. I just know how I felt when I saw you and I feel sick when I think of other guys feeling that way.” I sigh at his perfect response and ask myself, “Why am I doing this?”

If Micah really is my soul mate, he should encourage me to do some soul searching. He may be worried, rightfully so, about attractive English men with their excessive use of the word “fancy” and equally attractive English lingo and the effect it may have on me.

Still, if we are meant to be together, we should be able to withstand a mere three months of separation. Both Micah and I are aware that I will regret forfeiting this experience in the name of love. I’ve already found the perfect program, and when I mention its advantages, he’s increasingly supportive. I say, “I will miss you so much! Will you love me when I return?”  In response, he reminds me that he would never deny me the chance of this unforgettable experience — as long as I remember to tell him about it. This may be difficult, but I’m certain that this particular phone bill will be well worth the price.