You will be studying abroad in less than a year. Honestly, if I uttered these words to first-year Bonnie, she would nonchalantly wave me off, without even a single spark of fake enthusiasm. Unlike most high school applicants, I was very adamant about not studying abroad in college, refusing to even entertain the prospects of a semester abroad. As such, when sending out college applications, I did not pause for a second to consider the strength and flexibility of an institution's international network.
During Advising Week at Amherst College, my first year advisor Dean Martini spent our first meeting surveying my goals. In creating a conspectus of her new advisee, she asked me if I was interested in studying abroad. Without hesitation, I shook my head, and said “There’s no need. The countries aren’t going anywhere in four years, so I’ll travel after my time at Amherst.” At the time, I was serious about my reasoning, but I remember her chuckling “I guess that is somewhat true”. Seeing my firm stance on studying abroad, she moved onto other questions.
Countless times after that meeting, I walked into Keefe Campus Center and passed by the Office of Study Abroad. Soon after, I would see earnest international program representatives hailing flags and brochures of places all over the world. Despite the temptations of the colors and energy, I silently walked by, assuring myself that I would be wasting my time browsing the pamphlets and posters.
Yet, come sophomore year, these fervently anti-abroad thoughts began to dissipate. Talking to upperclassmen friends, I realized that many who had studied abroad or were currently abroad never regretted a single moment, while those who did not regretted not going abroad. Of course, there were exceptions in the mix, but my steadfast opinions began to sway. Starting small, I considered domestic exchange programs, where I would attend another U.S. institution for a semester or two. But when I spoke with my major advisor, Dr. Nick Horton, he supported my search for suitable domestic programs, but strongly encouraged me to set my eyes on international destinations, particularly New Zealand.
New Zealand was a strong candidate for four huge reasons: being non-European, having a reputable statistics program, having English as one of its official languages, and, admittedly, who could say no to those breathtaking Google images. Because I had not taken any language classes in college (learning Java from computer science class doesn’t count, right?), I was not eligible for many countries where the abroad programs required at least two semesters of language credit.
I scheduled to meet with an adviser from the Office of Study Abroad, where I met one of the greatest people on campus, Amanda Wright. Even though I started our meeting on a rather awkward note with “I didn’t start considering this until a couple days ago”, she understood where I was coming from and graciously pointed me in the right direction. She helped me realize that I had more options than I had expected and explained more nuanced differences between certain programs. Later, an independent exploration online brought me to the perfect destination: Delhi, India. Rather, what I thought was perfect.
When I was halfway complete with my application for India, I called my mom to update her. Already a considerably intransigent person, she wasn’t impressed with my reasons for going, and put her two cents in, “Why not Taiwan?” Of course, Mom, why had I not thought about the country of my roots? Although I had to get over the fact that I would be missing out on Hindi classes, I knew that Taiwan was ultimately the perfect place. It was about time for me to visit family, intensively pick up my Mandarin and Taiwanese skills, and educate myself about my parents’ homeland. With that in mind, I withdrew my application to India. Because I had been so indecisive, time was running out, and I hastily put together an application to a CIEE program in Taipei, Taiwan. Luckily, I received an acceptance back in time.
Since I have only been in Taiwan for a month and a half, I don’t want to jinx anything and declare absolutely no regrets from this program. But I will close by saying that it’s been so far, so good.