The fear of missing out: a condition wrought with feelings of nostalgia and nervousness due to separation from exciting moments shared with family and friends.
The fear of missing out plagues the minds of all those looking to study abroad. For myself, it comes in waves. Since I committed to the Sustainability and the Environment program in Monteverde, Costa Rica, pangs of nervousness occur around friends and family whom I will miss during my time abroad. It’s a homesickness before even stepping foot out of the country. And unfortunately, it is the reason many students avoid studying abroad; they fear their friends will move on, Temple will dramatically change in a matter of months, or Philadelphia will go through some renaissance without their knowledge. Coping with the fear of missing out is not and will never be easy, but this is how I deal with it.
John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, America’s First Urban Refuge
First, I think of the climate ahead of me. The warmth of the Costa Rican sunrise filled with the renewing air of the misty season reminds me that I will not miss the Blizzard of 2016 and Philly winters. Then I imagine what my host family likes and dislikes, the food we will share around the dinner table, and terrible fumbles I will have speaking Spanish. I remind myself of the program’s two field trips, two weeks each and full of travel around the entire country and into Nicaragua. Vivid colors and sounds surround my senses as I peruse my textbooks on tropical nature and biodiversity. I feel the rocks stuck in my boots on the way to class to meet two dozen new faces who will accompany me on this journey. And suddenly, Philadelphia, becomes a source of pride and identity, not anxiety and missed opportunities.
Hic sunt dracones is the Latin phrase for “Here be dragons.” It was often used by mapmakers as an indication of unknown and uncharted territory and has become my motto recently. While Costa Rica is not unknown territory to those who ascribe to the tico lifestyle, it is new to me. To explore and discover cultures and environments unfamiliar to my own is an opportunity not to be ignored. It is a way to flip the fear of missing out on its head. No longer do I fear missing something at home; I fear losing out on an adventure elsewhere.
The Birthplace of America
I have taken this extended winter break to explore my home country a bit more. I expanded my cheesesteak horizons on trips to South Philly and for the first time visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes Foundation. I spent five days in Texas with Temple’s Newman Center and visited numerous state and county parks around the area. I discovered the nation’s first urban wildlife refuge across from the Philly airport, challenging all typical notions of urban hiking. Most importantly, I spent valuable time with my family and friends. This is how I prepared mentally for my time abroad.
Friends will have fun without you but await your return. Family will miss you. Temple University and Philadelphia will keep progressing. The fear of missing out is no longer an excuse. It is the motivation to get out there, to challenge yourself, and to study abroad.