Combating “FOMO” through Study Abroad

Izzy studied abroad on the Argentina: Regional Integration, Development, and Social Change program in the fall 2012 semester. She’s currently a junior at Harvard University. A variation of this article was first published in The Harvard Crimson on January 24, 2013.

By Isabel (Izzy) Evans

Examining records in Asunción's "Archive of Terror." Photograph by fellow SIT student Audrey del Rosario (Stonehill College).

Izzy (right) at a local market in Asunción, Paraguay. Photograph by fellow SIT student Audrey del Rosario (Stonehill College).

When I first decided to study abroad in Argentina with SIT for my fall 2012 semester, I was incredibly nervous. I was anxious about living in a different country for so long. I was terrified that my host family wouldn’t like me or I would never be able to speak Spanish for four months.

But perhaps most of all, I was nervous because I had an intense fear that I would miss something drastically important and incredibly fun at Harvard while I was away for a semester. In other words, I had a bad case of FOMO (fear of missing out).

However, now that I have successfully completed my study abroad experience and am back at school, I realize more than ever how important it is for students to combat the epidemic of FOMO plaguing our campuses, take a risk, and decide to study abroad in a completely different culture.

My first few days in Buenos Aires, away from my normal campus routine and very far from the beginning of the new fall semester, I could not help but feel daunted that I had already missed some wonderful experience back in the US. I worried I was either missing some fascinating class, a hilariously memorable party, or being part of an especially beautiful Instagram.

And yet, the minute I became immersed in my life in Argentina and in the wonderful activities of SIT, I realized that there was so much I was learning and experiencing abroad that I would not have been able to find back at home.

Seeing thousands of Argentines banging pots and pans on the streets in opposition to President Cristina Kirchner showed me a protest movement very different than Occupy Wall Street.

Examining records in Asunción's "Archive of Terror." Photograph by fellow SIT student Audrey del Rosario (Stonehill College).

Examining records in Asunción’s “Archive of Terror.” Photograph by fellow SIT student Audrey del Rosario (Stonehill College).

On a trip to Paraguay with SIT, we visited a torture chamber created by dictator Alfredo Stroessner to hold anyone suspected of communist beliefs during Operation Condor. Listening to an old prisoner and touring the grounds where countless people had suffered taught me much more about the importance of democracy and freedom of thought than any required general education class ever could.

Living in a completely different culture and having no choice but to speak in Spanish was both challenging and stimulating in a new way. I became stronger because of the difficult days when I could not communicate with my host family no matter how hard I tried. When our conversations did flow easily, I became more aware of politics and problems I had never known about before.

Before I went to Argentina, I was not hugely interested in international news. South America seemed like a world away. Now that I have spent time in Argentina, I feel an urge to remain informed and connected about international affairs because I have international friends.

•Izzy at Iguazu Falls. Photograph by fellow SIT student Anna Etra (Barnard).

Izzy at Iguazu Falls. Photograph by fellow SIT student Anna Etra (Barnard).

When I returned to Harvard in January for my spring semester, I expected everything would have changed while I was gone and that maybe I had been forgotten. And yet, everything was the same as I remembered it. Except for one thing — I had changed.

The Argentina: Regional Integration, Development, and Social Change program examines the social and economic development strategies of South America’s Southern Cone countries — Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Learn more about the program here.

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