When I talk about junior year with my fellow upperclassmen and graduated friends, they often lament about how isolating their personal experiences were if their friends’ plans did not match their’s when it came to studying abroad. I have been made privy to countless accounts of how go-to UpC friends have a reputation of abandonment when enticed by the potential of traveling abroad and I have been witness to many retellings of horror stories regarding the theme of being the only junior in a given course.
This is not my narrative as a junior, nor is it the narrative of most of my friends and fellow members of the Class of 2015. The difference here seems to be that everyone I am close to in my year is JYStaying. Given the tales of woe from other people’s experiences, I know just how lucky an occurrence this is.
As Vassar students, none of us are the same, so naturally, we all have our own varied reasons for JYStaying. I, personally, had too many fears about what being abroad would be like. One of my closest friends was far too indecisive about which country she wanted to go to; another was struggling through the application process and came to the conclusion that it would be easiest to just forget going abroad all together. A few others soon discovered that their own plans for their time at Vassar was far too overbooked to include a semester abroad. Two of my friends are science majors, which only adds to the stresses of trying to complete all of a major’s distribution requirements in time for graduation.
My experience of remaining on campus throughout my junior year has, so far, seemed to be the perfect way to make my junior year just feel normal. Every other year has some outstanding marker. Coming in as a freshman, everything is new and shiny. As a sophomore, I was with other members of the class of 2015 in trying to navigate our way in the House environment without the structure of a fellow group or a mandated student advisor in our student fellow. Next year I’ll be a senior, living in senior housing and I know that there are an entire set of new experiences that go along with that.
If I had gone abroad then that would have be the defining moment of my junior year and would have overshadowed the great lessons that junior year can provide. JYStaying allows me to experience one year of just being a student, which is highly underrated.
There are many benefits to going abroad, I won’t deny that. But I would recommend trying out just being a student, an experience that serves as a calming effect in the chaos that is college. There are no negative expectations such as Freshfolk Fifteen, Sophomore Slump, or Senioritis to frame my JYStay experience and so there’s no pressure to meet or beat those expectations. I don’t have to worry about finding a group of friends because I’ve already done that over the past two years. Additionally, I’m not worried about my living situation in regards to those friends because single rooms are amazing and we can leave the problems involved with living together for next year.
Just being a plain-old student has allowed me to develop a comfortable social routine that I can happily repeat weekly. I don’t have to worry about being the outcast junior in any of my classes either because it seems that most people in my academic circles aren’t going abroad either.
And I’m very glad that many of my fellow juniors are staying on campus to fill those classes; Vassar classes are amazing. If I were abroad, I fear that my fifteen students to one professor ratios may be replaced by someone reading out of a textbook to an auditorium of students. And being a junior, I’ve been around some of these professors for three years already. Being on campus allows me to explore developing a strong academic relationship with my favorites from the Math and English Departments. Befriending professors has been a topic that I always thought people were lying about, but being on campus junior year and doing nothing out of the ordinary with this time makes it seem like becoming closer with faculty is a realistic option.
I know that quite a few of my classmates are enthused with their abroad experiences thus far and are seeing amazing sights as well as discovering the nuances of different languages; my narrative is not attempting to invalidate any of those amazing moments. And perhaps this validating JYStay experience is only felt by my friend group, but I hope that every junior out there isn’t living a sorrowful junior narrative. Sophomores: junior year abroad might be prove interesting, but don’t forget that there is always an awesome JYStay option.