go back to school?
February 23, 2005 8:17 AM   Subscribe

I am in the middle of a year off from college and im still not sure if I want to go back. I know that "college is important" but I don't see myself working 9-5 in an office for the rest of my life. I often day dream about going to the carribean or costa rica and living there for a couple of years. (+)

Mainly hanging out, surfing, and making friends. How feasible do you think this plan is? Im basically at a loss for what to do with my life. I have been to exotic places before, I can speak spanish fluently. I can leave at the drop of a hat, no strings attatched. I have about 10 grand to travel. Can you suggest any precautions, or any places to go. Any answer is good, it will add some perspective.
posted by pwally to Human Relations (46 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Who says you have to get an office job after college? If you are getting into big student loan debt, that does put more pressure on you of course.

I'd advise you to finish it off, as it will be harder to go back and do it later. I've never had occasion to regret having graduated.
posted by crunchburger at 8:27 AM on February 23, 2005

Finish first. Screw around later.

posted by petebest at 8:29 AM on February 23, 2005

what seems to stop people dead in their tracks is having children. this seems to happen no matter what the person is like before. so if you don't go to college now it seems to me that of the following options:
  1. meeting someone, having kids, having a good lifestyle
  2. meeting someone, not having kids until you've gone back through college and/or otherwise got a decent job
  3. not having kids
you're pretty much ruling out (1).

without children, you pretty much have the freedom to do what you want at almost any time. with children you end up not taking risks, looking for short term security, spending more, etc.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:30 AM on February 23, 2005

pwally, I have a good friend that has spent her life working at a variety of jobs in order to save enough money to travel extensively. She's 32 now and lacks any goals in life and is having a hard time adjusting to being a working stiff. Her initial reaction to any negative stimuli is to flee.

She's a great person, but she's so used to being able to do what she wants, when she wants it that the notion of a career is completely foreign to her.

Just a cautionary tale. Do what you need to do. I wished that I had taken a couple years to travel instead of jumping into the working pool.
posted by FlamingBore at 8:31 AM on February 23, 2005

I just returned from a cruise and noticed there are an awful lot of Americans running around those places working shore excursions, and such. They had jobs as tour guides, rafting guides, diving guides, etc, etc. If you're qualified in an adventure sport, or even reasonably funny and fluent in English and Spanish, that migth be an area to look into. I doubt it makes you rich, but it probably supports the lifestyle it sounds like you want.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:34 AM on February 23, 2005

I always thought that the dreary 9-5 jobs were for those who weren't able to stick to college, and couldn't write their own ticket - they end up getting subsumed by the machine. The people who live life on their own terms are the ones who finish what they start.
posted by luriete at 8:48 AM on February 23, 2005

If you don't want to go back, don't go back. You can always go back to school at any point, if and when you decide to do so.

"I'm basically at a loss for what to do with my life"- don't sweat it. You're young yet-- It's not like you have to work out your entire life RIGHT NOW in a series of engraved stone tablets that you haul around forever in a little red wagon-- no! Try things out, meet new people, go new places. Your actual life is happening right now, not at some preplanned point in the future. You decide what to do with your life now, and these decisions will lead to other decisions, experiences and events-- and that's called Life.

Life is a constantly changing process and sometimes the best things happen with no planning at all. For example, three summers ago one of my best friends was bumming around Mexico and he met a girl from Finland and now they are engaged. Neither of them were thinking, 'hey, I'm going to Mexico to meet the person of my dreams,' but that's what happened.

So I say Live. "Life Is A Banquet, And Most Poor Suckers Are Starving To Death." Don't starve-- start feasting!
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 8:49 AM on February 23, 2005

I know that "college is important" but I don't see myself working 9-5 in an office for the rest of my life.

Im basically at a loss for what to do with my life.

These two statements are the most important of your post. You don't know what to do with your life, but working a 9-5 job doesn't sound so fun, and neither does college. So you'd basically like to put off the decision. Here's what will happen: you'll take a couple of years off, have a ton of fun (maybe) and watch that $10k drizzle away. And then, a year or two later you'll have to.........get a 9-5 job to support yourself.

Of course, since you don't have a college degree, your choices of jobs will be more limited. You might find a great, well-paying and stimulating job with flexible hours; but more likely you'll have to take something crappy just ot make ends meet. And this 9-5 job will make finishing your degree all the harder. Lots of people are able to work full-time and go to school, but a lot of people aren't.

And BTW, part of the point of college is figuring out what you want to do with your life. College doesn't have to be drudgery - think of it as your time to sample different areas of human experience. You may find that one of them excites you enough that you want to pursue it for a long time. Not all 9-5 jobs are dreary and boring - many are stimulating and rewarding; the trick is finding them.

And if that doesn't work, you can always take those few years off after you finish. And you'll have a college degree to help you land a better job when your money runs out.

Suck it up. Finish school. Then play.
posted by googly at 8:50 AM on February 23, 2005

pwally: Suck it up and finish. two years is not a long time. Once you finish you'll be able to do whatever you want, and always have something to 'fall back on'. The unemployment rate for collage grads is 1.2%, for everyone it's like 6%.

Practicality never hurt anyone.
posted by delmoi at 8:53 AM on February 23, 2005

Most people go to college to put off the 9-5 job. Get a degree you like, maybe do study abroad or something cool with your time there. There's no hard and fast rule that says you have to go straight from college to career, either, you know.
posted by dagnyscott at 9:05 AM on February 23, 2005

pwally, you likely realize this on some level, but just in case you don't (*I* didn't, because I saw NO examples of it until I was well into my 20s), some people *like* their jobs, even some who didn't think they would appreciate an office environment. I can virtually guarantee that something you would love doing will probably end up requiring an office at some point, so I hope you're not utterly resistant to the idea, and if you are, you might want to analyze why and what you can do about it. I can completely sympathize, on the other hand, with not wanting to end up one of those soulless drones in a cubicle farm. Anyway, that's the advice I needed to hear at 20-22, and if I'd had it, I would have tried harder, sooner, to find a career I really wanted and could thrive within. I hope this helps!

Here's my recommendation: finish school, but sock that $10K away for a "grand tour" when you're done. That way, when you have time or whenever you're burning out from school, you can plan and/or fantasize about the post-graduation adventure that awaits you--and you might've made some interest in the meantime!
posted by kimota at 9:05 AM on February 23, 2005

My personal story is convoluted but apropos:

I knew after just a couple of months in college that I was in the wrong major. But instead of leaving, I took the so-called liberal arts courses everyone had to take until I settled on a major that I could deal with. It cost me a year, but I graduated with a BS.

Upon graduation, I couldn't find a job that I liked and I drifted for a while until I was able to get an entry-level job in a totally unrelated field, based solely on the fact that I had that degree. Having it showed not only that I could learn but a willingness to stick things out. The company had a tuition reimbursement program and I used to get another Bachelor's degree in a field appropriate to the work.

Please consider sticking it out.
posted by tommasz at 9:10 AM on February 23, 2005

I did exactly what you seem to be planning: dropping out of college with a year and a half left. Through the years, I often wished I hadn't and sometimes felt indifferent about it. However, I rarely (virtually never) considered it a good idea.

Get the degree and then go somewhere exotic. Dropping out without a degree is mundane; dropping out with a degree is cool.

Besides, nowadays you don't really have to start a career until after you are 30, but building up the momentum to finish a degree is difficult no matter what your age.
posted by mischief at 9:11 AM on February 23, 2005

I often day dream about going to the carribean or costa rica and living there for a couple of years.

So do it. You can always go back to school if you really feel the need.

You will get old and die sooner than you think, so what's more important: a fun and free youth, or a youth pissed away on dull practicality like most people seem to advocate?
posted by cmonkey at 9:13 AM on February 23, 2005

Even if (when) you DO finish college, there's no guarantee that you'll get a dreary 9-5 job after you graduate, even if you want one. At least you'll have a fighting chance, however.

It won't get easier to go back to school in a year, or two, or three, or more. It will get much more difficult (exponentially difficult).

You have good momentum for getting-through-school right now -- you can use that to your advantage. However, I believe strongly that everyone should indeed have lived in other cities/states/countries, traveled the world as much as possible, etc. So . . a nice balance of school rigamarole and world travel? That doesn't sound so bad to me.
posted by oldtimey at 9:13 AM on February 23, 2005

You won't realize how much that piece of paper matters until you need it. You will be surprised how many doors close just b/c you didn't finish.

If you don't like what you are doing, it likely isn't the fault of college, it is what you are doing in college. There are all kinds of really cool things you can study that will entertain, enlighten, and enrich you. If you are the outdoors kind, there are degrees for people who specialize in putting together tours. There are culinary degrees, mechanical degrees, beer brewing degrees. Just whatever you do, FINISH WITH SOMETHING. You will never regret it.
posted by vianetman at 9:20 AM on February 23, 2005

The unemployment rate for collage grads is 1.2%, for everyone it's like 6%.

The unemployment rate for holders of bachelor's degrees is 2.4 as of this month. For those with some college it's 4.1; for those with no college it's 4.7. [source]

Me, I'm partial to Frank Zappa's take on it: "If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library." Even going to one of my current jobs, on a college campus, gives me chills — I hate the atmosphere, the insularity, the groupthink. It doesn't help that nearly everyone I know with a degree is waiting tables or tending bar, because it's more lucrative than any of the jobs their degree might actually get them.

Personally, if I had 10 grand to blow, I would use it to get me as close as possible to where I wanted to be — to move to a place I was ready to stay for a while, to buy me time to look for jobs and be picky about it, etc. This seems to me a much more concrete investment than a degree that may or may not be worth anything in your particular case.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:28 AM on February 23, 2005

I'll agree with most here and say finish school, but I'd also like to add: College can be an extraordinarily fun and fulfilling experience. Major in (or take electives in) things that interest you. Meet lots of people. Read tons of books. Do stupid things. That's what that time is for.

But I guess to answer your question fully, I'd need to know your reasons for wanting to leave school. Is it too hard? Boring? Meeting dull people? Do you consider yourself self-motivated (i.e. would you be able to study up on subjects without the structure of college)? Etc.
posted by gwint at 9:33 AM on February 23, 2005

I have a degree, I have a friend who dropped out. He's a total free spirit, doesn't want to deal with offices or bureaucracy, has travelled a lot. Now he's dealing with being 25 and having no money, and having a *horrible* time finding anybody who will hire him to do anything he's willing to do. Because of the lack of degree, and because he's not willing to grind his way up from an entry-level job (see above, re: hates 9-5) he's stuck with fairly crappy jobs that make him miserable and provide almost no flexibility.

Many of my friends with degrees, on the other hand, are all able to hire themselves out as freelancers, travel all the time, have lots of flexibility and rarely have to see the inside of an office, because on paper they look good enough to get hired for lots of various projects.

Or as my friend's father said, "You have the degree, which means that right now you're able to get paid for what you like doing. He doesn't have the degree, which means he has to work to make money to afford what he likes doing."

I don't think college is hugely life-changing, or the end-all be-all of existence, or even very much fun. I didn't like it all that much when I was there. But right now, you can't even imagine the flexibility you'll get from having the degree vs. the problems you'll have without it.

(Also, for what it's worth: I've worked abroad as a tourguide, and work now in the travel industry, and most of the organizations I've worked with require a college degree if you want to be a guide. Obviously doesn't apply if you just want to rent canoes to tourists in Costa Rica, but I thought I'd throw it out there.)
posted by occhiblu at 9:43 AM on February 23, 2005

You may not feel like it, as you're in the middle of a year off from college, but you still have a significant amount of momentum working for you at this time in your life to get college done and out of the way. As others have said before me, it will be much tougher later on to circle back and get that piece of paper if you find you need it in order to open a door to something that might really interest you. Costs keep going up over time, too.

So as long as you're not accruing horrendous debt, I'm with the "suck it up" camp. Believe me, the itinerant-agricultural-tourist circuit in Australia will still be available to you in 2-4 years.

And besides, with a minimum of planning, you should readily find ways to enjoy the remaining time. It's college, for cat's sake, and many of us geezers would love another shot at the opportunities available to you right now. Get out there and make some new friends. Explore some new corners of your city--if nothing else, there's always the outdoors and/or underground. Use the time to make some plans and maybe even some additional coin, so that when you kick off your improv phase, you still start off on firm footing.

If you do it right, you can have your years in the Caribbean and still be set for the next phase in your life when it's time to move on. That time will come sooner than you think.
posted by clever sheep at 9:44 AM on February 23, 2005

I'm in a similar situation to OP (I left for one year, but now am finishing), and have greatly appreciated the responses so far. I'd ask, what's step two? If you could do it over, what would be the unusual, enriching experience you'd jump into immediately after college?
posted by gsteff at 10:03 AM on February 23, 2005

This thread really resonates with me. I took two years at a very, very expensive college working on a Computer Science degree. I realized quickly that I felt the major wasn't practical at all, but I stuck with it for the second year. After that, I moved to another city and another (much, much cheaper) university, and tried to continue the computer science degree, thinking that perhaps the problem I felt was due to the small college, and not the degree itself. I found the same problem at the university.

I'm now at home (working with family), due to a variety of things going Horribly Wrong™ with the second university and my living arrangements there. I'm at a loss as to how to hop back into the system, or even whether I should. I feel like it's been a complete waste of my time and money, since I've learned Absolutely Nothing. I say that with complete sincerity. I have a great respect for education, and I'm not trying to knock the process, but I feel extremely unlucky right now. I know plenty of friends who feel they've had such a rich experience, and being a person who truly loves learning, I'm not sure what went wrong.

I tried transferring into a school close to home, but didn't have the grades. So, I feel stuck. As a result, I'm considering travel, but for the various reasons outlined in the thread, I'm not yet ready to commit to it.

I'd suggest getting back into school if you can, and attaching yourself to something fun and worthwhile. Don't waste your time in the school, and don't get involved in a subject just as a compromise - choose something you'd really be entertained by.
posted by odinsdream at 10:13 AM on February 23, 2005

While in college, I'd have looked into more internships. Weirdly, while many places won't hire you without a degree, a lot of places will let you in while you're getting your degree. Having more of those on my resume would have helped get me closer to where I'd like to be.

I'm very glad that I pursued clubs/campus jobs/etc. in school, as well. It's a great way of getting the feel for organizing a project the exact way you'd like to do it -- directing a play, organizing a campus delivery service, writing columns for the paper, whatever. College gives you so many opportunities to jump up and do those sorts of things with no experience -- not something you'll get immediately out of college.

As for after college, I basically dropped everything and moved to Italy for a year to work as a tourguide, and I wouldn't have given that up for anything. (And the contacts I had that allowed me to do that easily were all made my junior year of college!)
posted by occhiblu at 10:18 AM on February 23, 2005

I really disagree with the people who say you should go to college and finish your degree now so you have something to fall back on later. You can go back to college later. A resume with a five year old college degree and five years of bumming around Costa Rica says 'shiftless' to me. A resume with five years bumming around Costa Rica, and a recently completed degree says 'campus hire' and 'grown up'.

You'll want that college degree eventually, and the credits you have now will help you get it later, but as long as you will go back to it when you need it (rather than spending your life avoiding it), I can't help but think you're better to go back later.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:37 AM on February 23, 2005

If you don't want to go back, don't go back. You can always go back to school at any point, if and when you decide to do so.

This is bad advice (imho) on two levels. First, the longer one is away from structured learning, the harder it is to get back into that disciplined way of life (according to my wife who is finishing her Bachelors Degree at age 42). Second, you may end up with commitments (such as kids mentioned above) that will interfere with your ability to go back to school; you really can't just "go back to school at any point." (This view also comes from my wife, who had several false starts on going back to school due to family commitments.)

"I'm basically at a loss for what to do with my life"- don't sweat it.

Well, since you don't know what to do, one of the best ways to spend your time would be attending school so that when you finally figure it out, you'll be better equipped to tackle the challenges that will come to you.
posted by Doohickie at 10:51 AM on February 23, 2005

If finances aren't a problem do yourself a favor and finish your degree. College can be a great experience and if you're not enjoying yourself, perhaps you are trying to hard. I realize it is a trite meme that college is more about the experience, and less about education, but it is all too true. The previously mentioned Zappa quote sums it up nicely. Enjoy yourself! If you want to travel the world do it, but finish up first. 2 years will pass in the blink of an eye. Think of it this way: Having a goal of bumming around South America will help you to chug through the final semesters, a reward on top of rewards. Whereas high tailing it south will create rifts of doubt in your brain and you might have some regrets. Those regrets can be rectified, in time, but the effort required will be far greater than gutting it out. Try a macroperspective... When you're thirty, would you be more comfortable with having a degree, followed with "overseas experience?" Or, I dropped out, having some fun, oh shit, I don't have a degree, haven't done anything "real" in the last couple of years, now I have to go back, etc.

Not to mention, wouldn't you rather have something concrete to have with you when you travel? Who knows what opportunities may lie ahead. This is rambling and incoherent, but think this through and don't give into the impulsivity! The warm beaches will be there in two years.
posted by AllesKlar at 10:58 AM on February 23, 2005

Here's what I did: I went to school. After two years, I flunked out. I got a waiver. I flunked out again. I moved to New York City. I became (after interval jobs) an IT guy, even without a degree. I made a crapload of money. I got tired of it. I quit and went traveling in South America for a month, then lived for six months in the US Virgin Islands. Came back to IT jobs in NYC. I made a crapload of money again. I got tired of IT again. I went back to school, at an Ivy. I got a degree. I tried for a job in another industry, but went back to IT yet again. I made a crapload of money again. Then the job I have now came along. I quit IT. I love the job I have now. It's the best one I've ever had. But it pays fuck-all. I can't afford to travel like I used to. But I am happy enough: I have many interesting projects, I pay the bills, and I get my name in the paper now and again.

Draw what lessons you will from that short version. Perhaps one might be, "There are many paths, but this one is mine. All end the same but they start differently. The roads twist and fork."
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:58 AM on February 23, 2005

Even going to one of my current jobs, on a college campus, gives me chills — I hate the atmosphere, the insularity, the groupthink.

What on earth are you talking about?

Anyway, I learn better by having people explain things to me then I do by reading, because often times the text is poorly written.
posted by delmoi at 11:10 AM on February 23, 2005

Based on my personal experience, I say finish the degree now. I dropped out in my early 20's, never went back to finish. Was a slacker for a while and had a great time. Ended up in educational software and made quite a bit of money and ended up starting my own business, so it has all mostly worked out.

However, getting my first break was much harder than it would have been if I had a degree. Basically I had a couple of very lucky breaks, which wouldn't have been necessary if I had the piece of paper to wave around.

So save yourself the headache. Finish up and then do the backpacking for a few years. You won't regret doing it in that order.
posted by pandaharma at 11:41 AM on February 23, 2005

Finish school.

Traveling and cool experiences and all that happy horseshit is wonderful, but like your mom always told you, it's good to have something to fall back on. You can't eat cool memories.
posted by jonmc at 12:02 PM on February 23, 2005

Speaking as someone who did what you are contemplating doing, I'm going to disagree with a lot of people in this thread and say: do it. Do it now. Do it while you still can, when you're young, when you don't know what you want to be doing with your life. Go find out.

I never went to college -- I went abroad instead, spent five years making a living as an english teacher, acting work, voiceovers, tour guiding, having a wonderful time. I do not regret one single second of it. I lived on bread and cheese, never made more than five hundred dollars a month (feasible in the economy I was living in) and loved it loved it loved it.

Now, at 30, I am about to finish up my bachelor's degree with straight As and go on to grad school. I would never in a million years have done that if I had forced myself through college right after high school.

You have the choice to live life on your own terms. If you're willing to take on the responsibility of the risk, and there is a risk, then do it. You will probably find, as I did, that an awful lot of people will be jealous of you for having the courage.
posted by jennyjenny at 12:09 PM on February 23, 2005

Jennyjenny's post and others contributed to this opinion: Dropping out for now and going back is great IF you are a responsible person and are willing to take risks. College is the safe road, and is great if you don't know whether you'll have the guts to go back to school later or sell/talk yourself into jobs minus the degree. Be honest with yourself - most people need school early on for these and other reasons mentioned above (like getting a clue as to what you're interested in - not necessarily through class, but via cool internships and friends).

Here's my experience: Straight through from elementary school to law school. I liked college and have an intermittent dislike of law school, mostly because the first year is a real b*tch.

My philosophy is to frontload all the work so that I can play later - you have to be careful that you actually make time for that play and don't get sucked into the rat race. However, in my opinion that's a ton better than not being sure of my job and not knowing that I'll be able to have extreme flexibility in the future - again, I'm trading for more flexibility later and less now. That said I'm getting more and more into biking and am planning a great cross-country trip after I take the bar exam, so it's not all work and no play.

If you drop out, you're frontloading your fun. This is great - you don't have to worry about making sure to make time later, especially when later might be full of family or other responsibilities. However, you've got to make sure that other priorities in your life don't fall to the side, like being able to provide for your family and yourself in old age, or being able to afford the flexibility in the future that you're craving so much now. That desire probably won't fade with age, but grow. Like it or not, college does give greater flexibility in jobs post-graduation.

Anywho, everyone needs to be aware of how they are balancing their life, and what they are giving up. Think it through carefully.

Finally, take a look at the book, "Rich Dad, Poor Dad." It's a super easy read and has an anti-school-education, pro-self-education philosophy. College _education_ isn't advocated, but neither does the author discount (or discuss) the value of the piece of paper in actually getting a job. The book focuses on money-making but much of the thinking can be applied to other lifestyle goals.
posted by lorrer at 1:10 PM on February 23, 2005

Oh, and if you want to travel, I'd suggest Eastern Europe and the former Soviet States, especially those near the baltic. Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Kaliningrad (actually a part of Russia) are gorgeous during the summer.

Why not take a couple months, tour those areas, then go back to school? You'll get a much different experience than you've had in spanish-speaking countries, meet lots of interesting people with crazy experiences at the youth hostels, and then come back to school in a few months with a better idea of what you're interested in. You can get a degree or take classes in that field, and college will be lots less painful knowing that you're working toward a specific goal/hope/dream.

So a little practical advice on de-paining college and balancing fun with work - hope it helps.
posted by lorrer at 1:17 PM on February 23, 2005

Do what you want to do, not what you think you're supposed to do. I beg of you.

For me, college was like a fantasy land. Books, debates, no one to tell me what to do most of the time, writing, interesting ideas every which way. It took me quite a while to realize that not everyone experienced it this way. For some it was a prison their family put them in, for others a stepping stone to $ucce$$, a place to hang around while they figured out what they were going to do next, a good source of drugs, etc. I'm firmly convinced that people who don't want to be in college shouldn't be there. I've seen plenty of these people in class rooms and I really feel like it's a waste of time for everyone involved. There are a thousand different things you can learn and a thousand different ways to learn each of them; there's a pretty good chance you'll find an educational opportunity that suits you.

Also, since you're not even a little bit certain as to what career you'll ultimately pursue, there's no way of knowing whether college will be beneficial to you in this area or just a won't-hurt-to-include-it-on-my-resume sort of thing. But if you decide later that you want to be an anthropologist or a lawyer, college will be there for you.
posted by Clay201 at 2:05 PM on February 23, 2005

Jacquilynne's answer completely changed my mind -- great insight and practicallity there. If you know that you simply must bum around, do it now, and have a more fresh BA for when you're ready to settle down into career or grad school.
posted by MattD at 3:15 PM on February 23, 2005

If I had that kind of capital on my wasted year off I would have travelled. The world can teach you 10x what you can learn in a classroom. Life is really short, don't waste the year, YES YES YES travel, at least for the rest of your year off. You have the capital and the time, so isn't that a door wide open for you? Why reject it? Halfway through my year off I was desperate to return to college and returned successfully. If you don't want to go back, don't do it, b/c that's only failure in the making. Wait for the drive, it will come, and if not then you can open a surf shop in South America and we'll all be jealous of you.
posted by scazza at 3:22 PM on February 23, 2005

"the credits you have now will help you get it later"

That depends on how much later. Generally, after 5 years, you will be lucky to transfer half the credits you earned; after 10 years, they're pretty much a writeoff, even if you return to the original university where you earned them.
posted by mischief at 3:39 PM on February 23, 2005

Doohickie: I was going to let it go, but I can't. I'm sorry your wife is having a tough time at school, but that doesn't mean I've given bad advice. There are others on this thread advocating the same thing: following the heart, not the head. The head will still be there later. Your (and your wife's) point is taken: it can be harder to go back to school later, but it can be done. Your wife is living proof.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 3:50 PM on February 23, 2005

All of these answers have been really helpful, even if i didnt mark it as a best answer. I still havent arrived at a concrete decision but I am much more comfortable with where im at now. Im starting to think of college in a different light, and defintely wont be going back unless my heart is 100% in it. JennyJenny your comment about having the courage really resonated with me. Fuzzy Monster, your post was probably the most helpful. Especially Your actual life is happening right now, not at some preplanned point in the future. Anyways, one thing is for sure, I will sleep better tonight.
posted by pwally at 4:45 PM on February 23, 2005

I believe Mark Twain said it best:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:03 PM on February 23, 2005

pwally, why don't you take the summer "off" and re-evaluate your options in the fall?

In other words, finish this semester, while planning a great trip to somewhere great. Also, register for the fall (if you need to do that in advance) -- just pick whatever you think is interesting or a class that's hard to get into. Then go on your trip. If September comes around and you're having too much fun and the money's still there and you think you'd like to take a year (or more) off, go for it. Write a letter and tell your university and that's that. For now.

And if you have a great summer and you're energized to return to school, then you can do that. Not to say that pushing off a decision makes it easier. But you will have a more realistic view of what the next phase would look like, and I'd advise for going longer than 6 or 8 weeks if possible. It takes a while for the novelty to wear off of a particular place and a particular lifestyle. So you need to live it for 2+ months (I'd say 3) to see if it's really tenable over the long term.
posted by zpousman at 6:10 PM on February 23, 2005

Does anyone actually have some advice in regard to semi-spontaneous traveling? I don't know anyone personally who has done what I'd like to do*, but this thread seems full of experience on both sides of things. I hope I'm not out of line asking for some suggestions about how to travel for an extended time period. What about living arrangements? Paying for hotels seems too expensive, but how do you manage to, well, stabilize in a foreign place?

*visit a country where I don't speak the language very well, possibly Russia, for at least a few months, perhaps longer, with a vague itinerary.
posted by odinsdream at 6:27 PM on February 23, 2005

What on earth are you talking about?

I thought I was clear. Colleges freak me out. This might have something to do with having been a grad student's kid and having spent altogether too much time on campuses in my formative years. But I think it's got more to do with the fact that schools are full of people who've never lived in any other environment, both students who've spent their waking hours in school since they were 6 and faculty, who (in general) have done the same. I feel like I'm stuck in a cult compound and somebody forgot to give me the Kool-Aid.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 6:38 PM on February 23, 2005

Paying for hotels seems too expensive, but how do you manage to, well, stabilize in a foreign place?

If the foriegn place is generally poor, you won't have a problem if you stay away from ritzy hotels. You can live in Asia for a buck a day. I don't know about Russia -- it's a pernicuous situation that's particularly bad for travellers (if you don't speak the language/don't have any friends already there).

In my travels I've met quite a few foriegners who lived off the "tourist" jobs -- the kind that managers generally prefer having staffed with foriegners so the patrons better "relate". Bartenders, SCUBA instructors, hotel/guesthouse staff, etc. You won't make a lot of money, but won't need much, either.

You should talk to stavrosthewonderchicken if you want some anecdotes of being on the road. His blog is filled with good stories.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:02 PM on February 23, 2005

I'm a college professor. In my experience, the people that get the most out of what college has to offer are the twenty-five-year-olds that saw the world in the Navy, rattled around Asia, or otherwise indulged their wanderlust. I regret not having done it, and regret even more not even thinking of doing it.

If college isn't for YOU right now, then don't do it right now. Do what you want. It's called freedom, and comes highly recommended.
posted by Wet Spot at 7:49 PM on February 23, 2005

You get out of college what you put into it. I loved college, because I took courses that mattered to me, and interested me further than their values to my GPA. If you want to travel/see the world/etc, go for it, but you should consider that college has a lot to offer you in terms of being able to do these things. I have freelanced and worked short term jobs to earn enough money to do what I want, and these jobs have been contingent upon my having bachelors degrees.

When I first got out of college, I was bitter that my friends who hadn't attended college were making more than I was (I was also underestimating myself in terms of what I was capable of), but within six months, I was making much than they were; after a certain point, and in most fields, a degree plus experience will earn you more than experience alone. It doesn't sound like money is your primary objective, which is awesome, but it's something you should consider, since having fun often requires bucketloads of it.

Since you enjoy travel, you might consider continuing your formal education in a different country; maybe a change of atmosphere would make pursing your education more enjoyable and fulfilling for you.
posted by LiliaNic at 9:23 PM on February 23, 2005

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