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A Broad Perspective: Memories From a Semester at Home

What happens to an abroad dream deferred? To be completely honest—speaking from experience—not much at first. The first couple of weeks of the fall semester pass at a fairly normal pace, you navigate your new schedule, pick up your books, and settle into a new residence. Some kids with flights booked for somewhere exotic later that month linger around campus on weekends and crash on a couch or two, but as time passes, the numbers dwindle. The pack of abroad-bound kids thins as it turns its sights temporarily home or to the airport, but otherwise the early days of junior year proceed much like those of years and semesters past.

An occasional reminder finds its way into your mind, maybe in the form of a link to a blog your friend promises to write or a contact information update on your Facebook feed, but you manage to stay entertained by the excitement of being back on campus.

Junior year’s first green is the hardest hue to hold, however, and inevitably the early flowers of summer subside to the leaves of late September as the mid-semester drudgery intensifies. This is where the FOMO becomes evident.

Every day, new photo albums emerge featuring familiar faces against backdrops of unmistakable landmarks and foreign cityscapes, or dreamlike beach and mountain scenes. Filtered images from your classmates’ weekend travels dot your Instagram feed, and heavily meditated captions highlight his or her curious destinations with quirky, multilingual wordplay.

As the photo album descriptions steadily grow to include the names of countries you’ve only seen written on maps, the extent of the Comm. Ave. direct shuttle route seems to shrink daily. It becomes apparent at this point, that maybe, regrettably, you’d rather be somewhere else.

As an individual with nearly a medically viable case of wanderlust, this timeline of disgruntlement was particularly manifest in me. Anchored to Chestnut Hill by academic obligations that could not be fulfilled abroad, I felt ensnared by the harshness of reality. It often occurred to me that every second of every day, I was actively missing out on a life-changing experience and instead going through the highly forgettable motions of the “MWF” and “TTh” schedule. In my eyes, pages of my passport, which longed to be swiped and stamped all around the world, were blindingly blank.

I kept this widening wound largely to myself, highly aware of its absurdity. Coming from someone fortunate enough to be attending a highly-regarded school with little other to worry myself over other than academics and finding employment (with a little norovirus mixed in for laughs), absurd was an understatement, in fact, when the issue at hand was that I wasn’t gallivanting around Europe.

Regardless, these thoughts plagued me. The fleetingness of time and my youth weighed heavily on my psyche as I started to stare down job applications and resume critiques, all while simultaneously being inundated with images of Oktoberfest and the Great Barrier Reef.

As I sulked in this indulgent but nevertheless unpleasant reality of my domestic confinement one day in late November, in the interest of procrastinating for finals, I decided to make a visit to my camera roll to revisit the past semester in search of lighter moments.

As I began the long scroll starting from my first move-in photos, moving eventually into football games, Halloween, and onwards, I came to realize something about the last three months on The Heights and, more importantly, myself.

While I was busy waking up daily wishing I were somewhere else, instead of finding the beauty in the experiences I was enjoying at BC, I was preoccupied with longing for the adventures I wasn’t experiencing.

In my mind, the time I found myself surrounded by confused fans at a hurling match at Fenway Park was less memorable than it would have been feeling out of place in Dublin. And the time my car was keyed by a disgruntled Bostonian who was displeased with my perfectly reasonable parking job was somehow less unique of an experience than navigating through hoards of tourists and selfie-stick peddling vendors at some extravagant European city. To my disgruntled self, the countless pictures of breakfast sandwiches that I had cooked by myself using my own kitchen could easily be exchanged for any number of experiences across the pond.

I realized that though the pages of the passport that contains my name and birthday may lack the marks of airports around the world, this has no bearing on my past. The contents of my camera roll, though perhaps less Instagram- or Facebook-worthy, were no less worthy of a review. Each photo, regardless of how unimpressive to the uninformed viewer, came with its own narrative and its own emotional weight.

I had almost fully convinced myself that these experiences had not even occurred—that my entire semester could be summed up as “not abroad.” I am the sum of these photos and of these experiences, and to discount them as unimportant to the point of non-existence would be to deny myself the fond memories of late nights, formidable Ikea furniture, and new faces.

Surely with pieces like this, inevitably the question arises—if you went back in time and made the decisions that would have allowed you to go abroad, would you go? In short—yes, absolutely I would go abroad (the aforementioned wanderlust is incurable). But looking back (and now looking to the future), I know that I could never wish a day away. Who in their right mind would wish away an entire semester of bacon, egg, and cheeses?

Featured Image by Kelsey McGee / Heights Editor

January 24, 2016