I don't know what to do

I’m in a program that is somewhat prestigious where I spend two years at an international school far from home and then the final two years at a really prestigious school that is half an hour away from home. I’ve been in school for a month and I hate it so much. I hate the people, I hate the food, I hate the classes, I hate my major, I hate the city, and I’m really lonely/miss everybody. A really big part of this is the fact that I hate my major. I already tried to change it but the school has rejected my request to change it.
The only reasons I have for staying in the program are the prestige and the convenience of staying (since my parents already paid for shipping everything over there, some of the tuition, a new phone plan, etc). But I just don’t think that I could do this for four years. Even though it’s really stupid, I can’t stop feeling like prestige is important to me.
I’m fairly sure I can attend my state school for the spring semester, but I can’t help feeling really embarrassed about this after telling everyone in high school that I was going to an Ivy League school. I also feel bad that I wasted everybody’s time and money and that I’m giving up after only one month. But I’m also EXTREMELY depressed to the point of having the type of depressive thoughts I haven’t had in years. I spend each and every day crying in my room, and I can’t really focus on class work. I’m home for break now and I feel like I should decide this week. What do I do.

It sounds like you may be homesick or having trouble adjusting, especially if you are abroad. Are you on this continent?

It is very very common to have these feelings in the first month of college, after leaving home.

The issue with hating your major is difficult, I am sure. If it is an Ivy League college, then I assume you have not had to declare a major/concentration yet so maybe you could clarify.

You will be 30 minutes from home after your stint abroad. But you do have two years first.

I hope you can suspend judgment just for a little while. I have seen totally miserable students in the fall end up happy by, say. February. Adjusting to a new life is difficult!

Anoher thing that can help is seeking counseling temporarily. Sometimes there are groups for new students who are feeling lonely. Talk to someone. If you have preexisting depression with meds, see if they can be tweaked temporarily.

After a couple more months, I think you will know better whether leaving is the right choice.

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To answer your questions:
I’m not on the continent and the school is a 6 hour flight away (I have additional anxiety from immigration visas, airports, getting international health insurance, etc).
Even though I’ll be attending an Ivy League school where it is much easier to change your major if you went there for four years, the program requires you to start your major at the international school where I am not allowed to change my major, so I cannot pursue the major I want to in America. In short: if I stay in the program I have to keep doing this major which I hate.
Thanks for your advice. I really appreciate it. If you have any other advice after hearing these circumstances I’d be glad to hear that too. Thanks for the help.

Why are you abroad for two years? If you were admitted to this school (Ivy?), can you return and study at that school, in the US, for next semester, instead of staying where you are?

No, the program requires me to spend my first two years at the international school and then my last two years at the Ivy. I didn’t apply to the Ivy itself but the program, so I can’t return home any earlier. Sorry for any confusion and once again thanks for the help!

How has COVID affected this picture? Were you home with family all last year? Are there any problems with travel?

Is the study in the US considered study abroad from the perspective of the school you got into?

I think homesickness and adjustment would be much harder in a different country, where food is different and everyone around you is speaking another language. Are you fluent in the language where you are?

I feel for you! I think the main issue, aside from adjustment, is that you are required to choose a major and have no chance to explore. I know this is common in other countries and a few schools in the US, but I always feel having two years before declaring a major is helpful.

I really hope you can talk to someone, a counselor or advisor, about how you are feeling. They could help you explore options.

Are you in France?

Did you pick the program because you wanted the Ivy and figured you could just get through the first two years in a place you didn’t really want to go?

I always counsel kids on here to only go abroad to university if they really, truly want to be there. For what it is. Which is hugely different from the US. It is hard to fathom for an American student just how different universities are in other countries.

One case in point: They tend to expect you to have thought through what to major in and expect you to either stick with it or start over. And they are really truly inflexible about this.

Forget what you told everyone about going to an Ivy. You are not there now. You are in a place that makes you horribly unhappy and you have to decide if being horribly unhappy for two years is worth it. It may not be safe. Depression can kill. And it’s okay to start over. At your state school, or another school that you apply to. You have time until January. Find out which school would still consider you a freshman if you were to withdraw now, if you were to stick it out till Christmas, if you were to stick out the year.

Good luck! You do have options. Just forget your high school friends. They’re not there with you.

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I’m not in France. I’ll be upfront and say that I’m in the Columbia Trinity College Dublin dual BA program. You’re right, I only chose this because I wanted to go to Columbia and thought I could get through the first two years but I was wrong. Thanks for all your advice. It’s really helping me in making my decision.

After rereading your post, I was wondering whether anyone in France could hate the food, even if they hated everything else. Thank you for clarifying.

I assume you have been discussing this with your parents. They are really the only people whose business this is. But you do have to discuss the finances of your options with them, so you can make the best choice here.

One thing Dublin’s got going for it is that the language barrier, though it does exist, is low. Have you explored counselling options? If you were to decide to give it another shot for the rest of the term, I’d think it’s not safe unless you had at least a weekly appointment with someone. Is that possible through health services at Trinity? Or would you have to look in the community? It may be possible to find a private practitionereven though mental health services are probably as overwhelmed as in the rest of Europe mid pandemic.

Have you tried connecting with other international students, such as in virtual global room?

https://www.instagram.com/tcdglobalroom/

Or a wellness course?

Or these supports? https://www.tcd.ie/Student_Counselling/covid19/

Start with support today.

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Sorry to hear you’re experiencing a rough start to college abroad. Yes, do explore potential options back home in the US (just in case) but I would also suggest staying open to your current environment. I grew up in the western part of the US and was excited at the thought of studying in London for a year. But I hated it upon arrival and for the subsequent few weeks - the weather sucked, the food had no taste, no one smiled, etc (this was in the early 90s). I thought I had made a huge mistake. But then I made a few friends, started exploring the city, found cheap dives serving reasonably tasty Japanese, Indian and Malaysian food (and realized I liked fish and chips a lot!), got into my studies, and soon it wasn’t so bad (and ultimately became quite a positive experience).

I know London and Dublin are different cities but I find Ireland to be interesting (culture/history, geography, politics, etc). Also, you are in Europe, with (long) weekends in London, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam just a short flight away (I explored the continent a lot that year, including with friends from home who visited - one of my fondest memories was taking the overnight train from St. Petersburg to Moscow with a group of students from the UK and getting to know young Russian folks we met on the train).

As others have suggested, do reach out for support and share how you feel with your parents. And if you decide that you really can’t bear continuing in your major, maybe it’s sensible to withdraw from the program and either enroll at your state school or take a gap year. Importantly, don’t worry what others might think - it’s your life and happiness.

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TCD Dual BA Program (columbia.edu)

The Columbia part of this program is in the College of General Studies which is for returning and non-traditional students, and also offers these international dual programs for students, including those just graduating from high school. The only way into the College of General Studies for a high school grad is by doing one of the international dual degrees, apparently.

The acceptance rate for the College of General Studies is much higher (i saw 35%, and one post said 18%) than Columbia College (3.66-5.3%) but the education is the same.

This is not a “back door” to Columbia University, it is a “different door,” as one person put it.

So the entire reason you are doing this program is so that you can say you went to Columbia? You can accomplish the same thing by being out of high school for a year, doing something interesting, working, volunteering, whatever, and then apply as a non-traditional student.

College of GS students can attend part-time.

I generally think that students who are unhappy after one month at a school, should seek counseling and advice, and see how things go. But you are only there in order to be able to be somewhere else.

You have other ways to go to the College of GS. That said, this could be an incredible experience. Students from all over the world are at your Dublin program.

I think you need to talk to someone, and make sure to tell the full story about why you are there.

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Dublin is a great city. There is a lot to do.

I get a sense you’re feeling a bit sorry for yourself. The shock of being in a new place and realizing that you now have to get serious about studies is hard for some kids to handle. Missing friends and family is normal. Read this. It might help you. To those who feel lonely/homesick/friendless/think they chose the wrong school, etc...

One month is not enough time to give the program a chance. Get out of your room. Join a society. Go to yoga, do some volunteer work. Go to anything that sounds remotely interesting. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know anyone, or have to go by yourself. You won’t know anyone anyway if you’re crying in your room all the time. You’ll be by yourself if you’re in your room. So get out of the room today. And find a counselor to talk to if possible. These are actions you can take today. You need to give things a chance.

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@compmom I cannot imagine Columbia GS would admit her if she were to drop out of the dual BA program.
I think OPs choices are to give it another chance of making this work (with a counselling plan in place) or treating this as a gap year and starting over with applications. I am sure there are lots of schools who wouldn’t hold it against her if she decided university in Ireland just wasn’t her thing. But I think Columbia GS would.

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The OP has many other options. I have no idea whether the College of General Studies at Columbia would admit the OP. I should just clarify that the OP could have gotten into Columbia GS by taking a year off rather than going to Ireland!

I also suggested counseling and trying to stick it out but when I realized the OP originally did not apply out of a desire for this international experience, but instead to get into Columbia GS for the name school, I had second thoughts.

@elaine_benes you are already there, so I would still give it time. One month is not enough and many students would feel disoriented. Believe me, feeling dislocated from a move or big change occurs throughout life. But if you are severely depressed of having suicidal thoughts, PLEASE seek help asap.

I imagine you are feeling a kind of panic about escaping, and feeling trapped. You are not trapped. You can leave anytime.

You do not need to stress about transferring to your state school. If you decide to leave, you can take classes as an unmatriculated or continuing ed student in the spring and apply to matriculate in the fall.

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First thing: what you are doing is hard. It just is. Moving country is hard- even when you actually want to do it. When you are doing it simply to get to something else it’s even harder.

100% there will be things you don’t like about any new place (says somebody who has moved state / country / continent many, many times). 100% ‘home’ will look better, especially at first when literally everything is hard.

So, that’s the “I get it” part.

This:

is a tantrum. And you know what? some days you just need to have one. Just recognize it for what it is. I used to make “I hate X about this place” calls to my mother on those days. Totally fair. But, like all tantrums, at some point you have to pick yourself up, and figure out what you can do to make your situation better.

So: You don’t “hate the people” - you don’t even know them, as you are holed up in your room. What kind of people do you like? I promise you, they are there. Did you go to Fresher’s Week events? did anything interest you? What ECs did you like in the US? bet you can find it/them where you are.

And you can’t hate all the food- b/c Dublin has pretty much every kind of food available. What kind of food are you missing? Bring some of that back with you*

Finally, if you will share your major and what specifically you don’t like about it, some of us might be able to help find ways to make it more palatable.

*and get creative looking for what you like! Are you staying in Trinity Hall? Hop on the Luas that is just around the corner (Milltown stop) and take it out to Dundrum Shopping Centre- the Tesco there is likely to have familiar foods.

ps, while you are home apply for Global Entry if you haven’t already- it will take a lot of the stress out of traveling (though I agree that traveling is a lot less fun in Covid times).

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This is a tough position to be in because you have two unrelated factors piling up! Normally, even if the school/college doesn’t seem right initially, one can at least immerse themselves in the subjects that really interest them, buying some time to adjust.

But, if you don’t have the excitement of your chosen Trinity course of study to fall back on, there goes that “life ring”.

Also, living abroad absolutely is not everyone’s “cup of tea”. I was part of a business transfer that involved 4 individuals/young families full of excitement. But not until they all settled into daily lives here, did they realize how poorly they could adjust to unexpected differences in attitudes, or just minute day-to-day details, and by the second year, everyone (except for myself) was fighting on who would be able go “home” first. It takes a certain personality to be truly cosmopolitan.

Based on my experience, “going abroad” should be a very deliberate decision of someone expressly seeking that kind of adventure (which means: being fine with dealing with a lot of challenges in a different geography and society, some of which can be overcome, some one will to learn to “live with”, just like the locals) and actually enjoying the quirks, seeing the humor in the differences, accepting the adversities as evidence that cultures and their people developed differently that in “Kansas”.

But trying to “power through” two years abroad, when that has never been the actual goal, but you basically are viewing it as “sentence” you have to serve, before being “released” years later, is not a promising mindset.

As suggested already, you absolute must have an open, albeit difficult conversation with your parents. After all, they know you better than any of us, and know of any past challenges. They might also come up with fresh ideas on how to support you and make things more bearable.

For yourself, I encourage you to try figure out honestly, how likely it can be “all bad”, or if you either are looking at Dublin, its people, the food, “through the lense” of someone unhappy with their courses - or else, if your feelings about your studies are influenced on how unhappy you are with your location. If at the end, you realize you are projecting the unhappiness about one onto the other, then you’ve eliminated half the problem - possibly allowing you to better focus on solving the other.

From a perspective of someone who travelled to many European cities on work assignments for several years: Naturally, Dublin, London, Paris, Madrid, Berlin, Rome… all have completely different character, and one will most certainly have a most and a least favorite. But at the end, there are as many commonalities between these western metropolises and its people, as there are differences and with an open mind everyone can find their “niche”.
So if you think you can “make it” in New York, then I hope that (even if grudgingly) you could make any of the other aforementioned cities “work” for a while.

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Dublin is a GREAT place. Lot’s to do there, it’s easy to get around Dublin and the rest of Ireland, and it also has several low-cost carriers that can get you all over the EU and the UK very inexpensively.

It’s a very easy place to get around, and between LUAS, the DART, and DublinBus, you pretty much have the whole of County Dublin covered. The towns/villages on the coast are just wonderful. Even if you spend a few hours on a Saturday morning in one of the places where the DART goes, you will see some charming places, find some nice bookstores or places to wander, get a carvery meal at a pub, and still have plenty of time to do your work.

Of course, you’re there to study, but you can easily have loads of fun exploring these places when you have time, and you don’t need to spend loads of money or even time for a wonderful few hours break.

I fully appreciate that what one person loves, another might not. But please do give it time. One month is just not enough.

Absolutely, get counseling. It’s normal to miss your family, friends, and your “normal” environment, but being sad like this is not something you can sustain. Counseling will get you an immediate person to talk to, and I hope that will help you.

You are in a great program, and please do not give up after a month. I do agree that it kinda’ stinks that you can’t change your major, but what was it that made you pick your major in the first place? Can you find those redeeming qualities in what you’re studying now? Can you dream about something new or a problem to solve that you can pursue in independent studies as you continue with your major? And if a course is proving difficult, get a student tutor. You’ll likely make friends this way. All of this will give relevance to what your studying today, and maybe you won’t hate it so much if you see the bigger and longer picture.

And of course, talk to your family and friends back home.

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Generally agree, but Ireland was one of the very first countries to allow US customs and immigration clearance at Dublin and Shannon airports. Once you clear that, it’s essentially a domestic flight from those Irish cities to anywhere in the US. In other words, you don’t go through clearance again at your first entry US airport.

That being said, I used to do a ton of international travelling pre-pandemic. That’s dropped to zero, but Global Entry was definitely something I was going to get. It’s a huge time-saver.

Also, flights from Dublin to JFK or EWR can be shorter in duration than say NYC to LAX!

I agree that being able to clear Customs & Immigration in Dublin is super- but the key is clearing it: the regular lanes in Dublin get very long and GE is always clear!

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