The Collegian
Saturday, July 02, 2022

With peers abroad, stateside juniors reshape social circles and find balance

Juniors who did not go abroad last semester said they did not regret staying on campus.

"You only have four years of college," junior Keely Naughton said. "I think that not going abroad during the school year is underrated."

Naughton opted to remain at the University of Richmond so she could train for and participate in the University Dancers' annual spring concert, as well as keep up with her major classes for dance and rhetoric and communication studies.

Junior Alex Shafran chose to remain at Richmond for the fall semester because of his computer science major. He found that Richmond had its own appeal.

"This is more home than anywhere," Shafran said.

Two hundred and thirty-four juniors studied abroad during the fall semester, according to the University of Richmond Study Abroad website.

The first few days back on campus in the fall were anticlimactic with fewer friends on campus, Shafran said.

He said he took the absences in stride and adapted to the changing campus climate. He continued to enjoy the friends who stayed and also met new people to reshape his social circle.

Naughton said the semester forced her to expand her group to encompass new friends as well.

Still, both supported their friends' decisions to go to new places.

"It's not really for me to say whether or not people should leave," Shafran said.

Junior Erin McDaniel said she had sent occasional messages to friends to wish them luck and fun while abroad and to let them know she was thinking of them.

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Academic expectations were similarly altered and the abroad situation turned out to be somewhat of a saving grace for the juniors in Richmond.

The reduced population on campus pushed the workload into focus, Shafran said. The fall semester challenged him more than any other academically, he said, and he was less distracted by his social life.

McDaniel said: "I could really appreciate the work and being busy, and finding the value in that."

Half of her closest friends were abroad, and half remained on campus, she said. The circumstance allowed her to find balance in the midst of school, socializing and her job as the head resident of Gray Court.

"I had a semester to make school my absolute priority," she said.

A sense of normality endured as technology maintained a connection between the students who stayed and the students who left.

Shafran kept track of his friends abroad through Blackberry Messenger, Facebook and Skype, although some friends put more effort into staying in touch than others, he said.

Naughton kept an occasional eye on her absent friends' activities through their online photos and messages, but she missed her friends abroad so much that she quit keeping up with their adventures. Nonetheless, she made herself available whenever they needed to talk.

The concept of her own travels kept any budding regrets at bay.

Naughton, who traveled abroad in high school, hopes to have the chance to do so again after college, either for pleasure or to teach English.

Other juniors on campus said they have gone or plan to go abroad.

McDaniel said she had enjoyed a trip to Prague in the summer of 2010.

Junior Nancy Angelica set foot on foreign territory with her family in high school.

She hopes to make it to Europe to visit an English-speaking country during the coming summer months or after graduation.

While her art history major and the image of architecture and cathedrals drive her determination, Angelica said, "I also would love to go, just to go."

A new semester unthawed and the juniors on campus during the fall felt that their friends were never gone.

Shafran looked to the start of the spring semester with excitement. His friendships picked up right where they left off, he said.

Some anticipated their friends' returns with mixed thoughts, nevertheless.

Naughton admitted she was nervous that her gradual and recent developments of personality and self might not match those of her returning friends.

"People being abroad, it's obviously going to change them," she said. Her concerns turned out to be unwarranted, she said.

The juniors found time between classes and appointments to catch up back on campus.

McDaniel put her listening prowess to work to settle back into her relationships.

"I'm grateful when my friends share stories because I feel like I can live vicariously through them," she said.

Contact staff writer Katie Touissant at katie.touissant@richmond.edu

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