Overseas Briefing

By Guest Contributor

Technically speaking, I am not overseas. But every week, this section of the Campus features the exciting tales and fascinating challenges of our peers who are lucky enough to be abroad and it seems time to turn the tables on them and brief our traveling companions on our lives.

For starters, it continues to snow and then melt and then snow and then melt in Middlebury. So for any skiing enthusiasts bemoaning days missed at the Bowl, no worries.

What else? Winter Carnival is this weekend! Though given my aforementioned observation, it may prove to once again be an underwhelming affair. The biggest controversy on campus right now is whether to buy one of the exorbitantly priced tickets to the Winter Ball.

Any input from those studying abroad in Europe? What about you, African initiates? Have you gleaned valuable life lessons from your overseas experiences that can help us answer the ever-important question: will there be $20 worth of fun to be had at the Ball this weekend?

But, on a slightly more serious note, I think there are interesting realities regarding life on this campus when you have really good friends who are overseas. It’s a situation I’m sure we’ve all faced or will face during our time at Middlebury. The mixture of envy, vicarious excitement and smug pity.

Example: “Oh, you had a bad day? You got ripped off at the market again, and you got in a fight with your new abroad best friend, and you haven’t been able to Skype with your boyfriend in two weeks and you’re just feeling really far away from home and missing Middlebury?

“I’m so sorry. That must be so hard. Yeah, Middlebury is the same old, same old. Safe, fun, comfortable. Wait, what are you doing tonight? You’re going on a midnight river booze cruise where a famous local pop star will be performing? Ah, that’s amazing! You’re going to have so much fun! I’m so happy for you. That will turn your mood right around. I’m 95 percent happy for you and only five percent jealous. LOL. Don’t have too much fun without me.”

And then there’s the unique but still fairly common scenario in which you are a senior and your junior friends are abroad for the spring, or worse, the whole year, meaning that they will miss your graduation and you may not ever see them ever again. Well that will just ratchet up your resentment levels a few notches, won’t it?

Except that, you don’t really resent them at all. Having been abroad yourself, you know what’s to be gained and lost from the experience. You know that for all of the romanticization and rhetoric surrounding the whole study abroad thing, it is an experience with powerful potential.

I remember an overwhelming feeling: living in Mali for four months could change me. Followed by such searching and insightful questions such as, “should I let it change me?” or “will it change me for the better?” Let me revel in the nostalgia of my pretentious self-obsessions. Nevertheless, there is that anxiety about the possibilities of a life abroad and it is perhaps more scary than the life itself.

Do our overseas peers really want to know what’s happening at Middlebury right now? We’re missing you. But not in an incapacitating way and Middlebury remains recognizable in your absence so don’t let that stroke your ego too much. And we’re wishing you the best. And we hope that you get to spend the rest of the semester embracing the potential and enjoying the possibilities of your semester away from here, because that’s perhaps something we wished we’d been better at when were abroad.

Written by SARAH PFANDER

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