College
by Lance Pauker on January 16, 2013

Cool New ‘Abroad Friends’

Now that the world-traveler extraordinaire has returned from boarding a plane, wearing boat shoes for awhile, and boarding another plane, he no longer has that much in common with you, the clearly sheltered former friend who has no idea what it means to get sunburned at obscure latitudes. 

New life perspectives are rampant now, and they can only really be shared with abroad friends–the only other people who really “get it.” No one else “gets it,” because the experience was so unique and awesome, and unique, and there was really nothing else like it, because it was just that “life-changing.” And unique. 

***It’s important to note that the overwhelming percent of abroad friends are also American. Nothing like traveling halfway across the world to party with a bunch of kids from another Big 10 school.

Forced References

Having an extended conversation with someone whose just got back from another country is one of the crueler exercises in first-world torture. No matter where you steer the chat, it’s all but guaranteed you’ll end up talking about some obscure experience that went down in Buenos Aires. For your convenience, here are  some examples:

When walking on the sidewalk: The sidewalks in Florence are nuts, dude. They’re made of this material that I don’t totally know how to pronounce.

When at a college bar that’s supposed to awesome: This is nothing compared to this place in Copenhagen we always went to. Thursdays, free beer from 11-1–well actually it’s 23-1 but figured you didn’t know that–and holy shit it gets outta control. Girls, redonk. Blows this place away.

When passing out on a couch: Yo, this hostel in Bangkok. I thought I was gonna die. Look at me, I had a life experience that I am now somewhat embellishing. 

Somewhat Douchey Altered Appearance

Maybe it’s a haircut tailored to the local style. Maybe it’s a small tattoo, some faux-meaningful phrase in another language. Either way, the alteration is always some sort of attention screamer, and any sort of approach is deadly. Innocently like those interesting earrings? Best prepare for an hour-long monologue about the welding customs in rural Portugal. There’s no escaping once you’ve made that plunge. 

Constant America-Bashing

Whether or not you agree with Will McAvoy, spending half a year somewhere that isn’t America will make you realize a thing or two. Not so much how America is shitty, but how there’s other places in the world that do things a little bit differently, and seem to be doing just fine.

Clouded by the “Is This Real Life?” experience of study abroad, many a returnee will confuse their multi-month rager and fine-dining vaudeville show with actually living somewhere–naturally, making that place seem hella cooler than it really is. America will suddenly be a place where people “don’t care about the right things,” “don’t ever think about the big picture,” and “everything, if you really take a look at it, is seriously messed up.”***

***That is, until you try and pair the words “Greece” and “Economy”

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Temporarily “Over” College Culture

Spending a semester not at school is sort of refreshing–for a brief period of time, it’s rather nice not to have to identify people by what frat they’re in, or worry about going to this party or that, or having to go to school-based events where you’re supposed to act like you’re having the best time ever, but is no longer as cool because the administration intervened.

Spending time away makes one realize how silly a lot of college life is when it comes to the grand scheme of things, but often the abroad returnee and their high horse approach these sorts of things with a lens that isn’t so much insightful as it is smug and douchey. Yes, waiting hours on line to get into a house to maybe get a natty light and talk to three girls is sometimes ridiculous, but mocking the experience doesn’t mean it's not one that’s worthwhile. College is a lot about forming memories–and by being too good for it, you are not letting yourself do that. Being mature at age 20 will only get you so far. (Also, where are you in such a hurry to go to?)

Stacie Orrico Syndrome/ (There's Gotta Be More) To Life

One of the more unforgivable references ever to make it onto this website, but it resonates too loudly to ignore.

Like tween heartthrob Stacie Orrico, the newly-minted European Renaissance man will suddenly be convinced that his current life situation–while good–is most certainly missing something. That’s because dude is so totally meant for something bigger, in that dreamy tween first-crush way. This 12-year-old girl scripture says so.

(And this is why nobody can actually take people hoping to “find themselves” seriously.)

The Study Abroad Fraternity

You’ll notice that upon returning to the states, people who were acquaintances will suddenly become decent friends due to the fact that one of them went to Munich, and another went to Melbourne. “There’s nothing quite like it, right dude?” “Man, what’d I do to spend a semester back there.” “I know, right?” “These other people just don't get it. And you like can't talk to them about it, because you come off as too douchey.” “I hear ya, Bro.”

Combine this with the fact that the junior year 21-turning escapades results in juniors galore at the school’s “tougher” bar, this is the sort of thing that’s really rampant right about now.

Overhype, and Pressure to Live Up to the Abroad Script

It’s inevitable that friends, acquaintances, and people that you’re meeting for the first time will ask you how your time away from school was. Really, it’s rude not to. But it’s one of those inevitable formalities that indirectly does an incredible amount of harm to the abroad experience in general.

You see, very much like when asked about college, the accepted protocol here is to respond by telling the other person about how awesome it was. It then creates a premise that’s nearly impossible to fulfill–yes going abroad is supposed to be touted as a transcendental experience–and personally, I had the best four months I’ll probably ever have whilst living it up in Copenhagen. But is it an experience that’s supposed to reach some sort of pre-determined pinnacle? An idea planted in your head before you even get there? Everyone telling you how dope it is, telling you what you should do? Isn’t the point of this whole thing to do a bunch of shit you’d never do, and never have the chance to do otherwise?

Study Abroad seems to have an increasingly similar script these days–go to a X number of cities with people from Y schools, and travel to Z cities and do XX things. (Or if you’re real cool, XXX things). But I don’t know. Go abroad and do whatever the fuck you want. You’ll have a dope time no matter what, but it seems like one of the only chances you’ll have to actually do something that’s actually on you, not the herd. It’s rare to have a chance to completely not give a fuck. Don't discount that. 

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