January 2, 2015

Collegiate Perspective: To Study Abroad, or Not To Study Abroad?

The first semester of this school year has come and gone in the blink of an eye, and the much-needed holiday is here. Relaxing with family and friends, taking trips, and the holiday spirit make the time away from college fly by. If you’re like me though, you still can’t wait to get back to school and see your whole chapter. Alpha Phi becomes such a prominent part of my schedule during the school year that there seems to be a void without weekly chapter meetings or running into a sister around every corner. This made me think, “How do people in a sorority choose to study abroad and forego an entire semester with their best friends?” The decision of whether or not to go abroad is becoming more and more of a dilemma for me as my time at the University of Virginia dwindles. Before college, I had always wanted to see more of the world and experience learning in an entirely new environment, but I never factored in the things I would miss while overseas.

This concept of “FOMO” (fear of missing out) has become a part of life for many of my peers and me (and maybe some of you as well), and seems to factor into nearly every decision. While I think this is a big problem with college culture as a whole, it is even more troublesome when it gets in the way of education or valuable experiences. Unique experiences are what make people individuals, and building a community within Alpha Phi is greatly enhanced by women who have encountered other cultures and life lessons that they can share with their sisters.

One of the great things about Alpha Phi is that you always have a home to come back to; I was worried that if I study abroad, my new member class would forget about me or that I wouldn't be as involved upon returning. My chapter has certainly taught me otherwise. In the past year alone, the women who have voyaged abroad have been sorely missed upon departure and embraced upon return. After talking with some women in my chapter, I've become convinced that including study abroad in my college career would not mean giving up sisterhood for a semester, but rather enhancing my sisterhood with experiences to share. That is not to say though that I wouldn't miss it terribly. Some of the Phis abroad this semester commented on their experiences and were reminded of how special of a home we have in Alpha Phi.

Third year Sharon Wolbarsht who studied in Birmingham said, “There’s nothing like walking into a house and being greeted by a table full of laughing girls. While that may sound cliché, it’s common in our house. Alpha Phi has always felt homey and I miss being surrounded by such a diverse, fun, driven, intelligent and kind group of women and can’t wait to reunite!” Another third year, Mel Destefano, said, “Coming to a new place (Florence!) and not knowing anyone reminded me of when I first came to UVA. I quickly found my home in Alpha Phi, and although I've made some amazing friends abroad, I can’t wait to come home to all of my sisters.”

It will surely be difficult to leave such a great community for an entire semester, but just being reminded of the incredible family and sisterhood I have to come back to, and knowing that I will be included while away (for example, Mel ran for our Executive Council all the way from Italy) makes me confident that fulfilling other aspirations is made more rewarding and supported by having Alpha Phi. I don’t know if it’s possible to love my chapter more than I already do, but they say, “distance makes the heart grow fonder.” Judging from what my sisters abroad have said, it seems to be true for our chapter.

Lauren Yevak is a collegiate member at Virginia (Zeta Iota). Learn more about Lauren by clicking here.

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