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Familiar Place, Unfamiliar People

Chris shares his thoughts about transitioning back to life at Carleton after being away for a year.

Chris shares his thoughts about transitioning back to life at Carleton after being away for a year.


I thought this week I would write about transitioning back to life at Carleton after studying abroad…twice.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, last year I had the opportunity to spend a year abroad in Seoul, South Korea on the NSEP Boren Scholarship. When I was weighing my options to go or to stay, there were a few things playing out in my head. I had already studied abroad at the end of my sophomore year in France and had a truly great experience. I really wanted the chance to perfect and sophisticate my Korean before moving on to grad school. Plus, doing this scholarship, I would be putting myself in a great position to go work in DC after graduating from Carleton. On the flip side, doing the year abroad meant that I had to miss out on a senior year together with my closest friends in a place that has meant my entire world for the past few years. It also meant that I had to graduate with the class of 2020 instead of the class of 2019 (this was unique to my scholarship case and does not apply to all OCS programs). Clearly I was in a pickle.

In the end, my family and friends helped me to see that as much as I hated to miss out on senior year at Carleton (well my original senior year with my bestest of friends) I would regret not accepting the scholarship opportunity if I stayed. So I committed to studying security issues and intensive language immersion in Seoul for the 2018–2019 academic year.

Being abroad for a second time in Korea was INCREDIBLE. Unlike my first program to France, my time in Korea was completely unstructured and free for me to do whatever I pleased. I made good use of it — I took classes as a full time student 4 days a week, went to a cultural activity or event at least twice a week, volunteered every other day, and tried to speak Korean 24/7. Over the course of ten months, I traveled to every major city in south Korea, hiked 7 mountains, ate the most incredible food, clubbed in the #1 party city in the world (Seoul), and most importantly, made so many new memories with amazing people. I can’t do my experience in Korea justice with my words — it was simply incredible.

Now that I’m back at Carleton, I can’t say that I feel completely at home again. Sure, Northfield hasn’t changed too much and neither has the campus itself (well except the two new geothermal wells and brand nee science complex…), but I still feel a bit out of place. Much of it probably has to do with the fact that I am back in a familiar place, without the people that have made Carleton feel like home. Don’t get me wrong, I know things will look up and I will be back in the swing of things in no time with new/renewed friends helping me along the way. I’ve already reconnected with so many great people and am having a truly AMAZING summer (see Ellie’s posts to see some of the activities we’re getting up to!). But I definitely feel that my time at Carleton is coming to an end.

I don’t feel sad as I write this at all…because it only reminds me that Carleton and its people have provided me with the most incredible memories I will cherish for the rest of my life. I am ready for the coming senior year, to crush my COMPS, have fun with my friends, and to take in all that this wonderful place to offer one last time before I graduate.

I’ll sign off by listing some promises I’m making myself this year — things that I think will keep me grounded in this year of transitions:

  • Be mindful, present, and grateful of my time, even in the most mundane of moments
  • Commit myself to things I am passionate about, and reconsider things that I am not so interested in
  • Take time to think of graduated friends, but appreciate the moments being made with new people
  • Slow down
  • Be better about calling home (this has been on my list since freshman fall)
  • Don’t get caught up on things you cant control
  • Treat yourself for small accomplishments

Here’s to the coming year!


Chris is a senior Political Science/International Relations major and Philosophy and French double minor. He’s super into podcasts, NYT crossword puzzles, jazz, and cooking. You can catch him scatting with the Vocal Jazz Ensemble, smashing balls on the tennis court — or perhaps buying too much bread at the farmer’s market, re-re-re-reading Foucault, frantically cycling to get to a meeting he’s late to, or crawling up the steep stairs in Willis.