Fall of junior year: The lonely quarter

Meredith Wise

My summer storage unit is empty, my walls are decorated, and my textbooks stand ready. A new school year is beginning. But this time around, something is missing. As everyone sends texts and e-mails, planning reunion dates with their friends, I find that I’m only sending half as many as last year. Studying abroad has become an increasingly popular option for American students, and Northwestern is no exception. Because our quarter system does not align with most international universities’ calendars, more NU students choose to go abroad during the fall of their junior year, so as to miss only one quarter, instead of missing both Winter and Spring.

So as I begin my junior year in the United States, I’m doing so without a big chunk of the group that has been here with me through over the past two years. I chose to study abroad during the summer because I have a bad case of what is called FOMO: Fear of Missing Out. I didn’t want to miss a good classes, my student group activities or football season. However, with such a large proportion of the junior class gone, I have to wonder: is it me who is missing out by staying here?

When I said goodbye to many of friends in June, it didn’t worry me that I wouldn’t see them again until January. I was about to leave for my adventure: six weeks in sunny Barcelona. But during the past month, without the anticipation of my study abroad experience, it has been hard to see them my friends jet off one by one to their homes for the next four months. I know I’m not the only junior who has temporarily lost a friend to the wonders of universities in Europe, South America or Asia, so what should what is there for those of us stuck on campus do? Are we supposed to hold down the fort so that Northwestern is the same as when they left it? Or should we attempt to create new friendships and memories to prove that their still really is quite a bit to miss out on?

The solution I’ve come up with is to attempt to mirror the mentality of my friends who are abroad. When I was abroad I knew that my time was short, so I didn’t waste any moment to see, experience, and eat the exciting things in my city. Of course, four years in Evanston is longer than six weeks in Spain, but now that I’m on the downhill of my time at Northwestern, so I need to start seeing the things I haven’t. What’s on the agenda for this fall? The Museum of Science and Industry and the Shedd Aquarium. Maybe it’s not the Louvre or Westminster Abbey, but it’s still exploration. And who will accompany me on these visits now that so many of my friends are gone? Well, I’ll do what they have to do over there-make new friends and get closer to old ones.

I’m still in denial that I have to spend this quarter without some of my best friends-my former roommate’s name sign is hanging on my new door. But I hope my plan ensures that we all use our time apart to make new friends and do new things to make the missing each other part a little easier. And then come January, maybe I’ll have a few stories to share during the catch-up sessions.