Hi Kristen,

I want to study abroad next spring in South America as part of a program pertaining to my major. I’ve already conducted research about the program and it sounds fun. However, it will be my girlfriend’s last semester, and I don’t want to be apart from her or my other graduating friends. What should I do?

— Tentative Traveler

Hello Tentative Traveler,

This program will be an opportunity unlike any other. Plenty of people can tell you the cultural, academic and personal benefits you would gain from such an experience. It’s perfectly natural to have Fear of Missing Out. However, you will only have this opportunity once, and may severely regret not going to South America.

You may not always have your friends and girlfriend in your life. After they graduate, they may be caught up with their lives, and it’s possible you’ll lose contact. Going on this trip will be a litmus test to see how well you maintain contact with them and whether they will support your decisions fully. Never let other people hinder a decision you know is right. Never let people convince you that their time is more valuable than yours.

Odds are, your friends and girlfriend are not doing this. They may support you entirely and look forward to making up for lost time or even traveling with you at another point. It’s a safe and comfortable decision to stay among friends — in a country, town and college where you feel welcome.

I encourage you to not give in to this comfort, and discover your strengths and limitations in a place where you don’t speak the language, understand the culture or feel at home. You will learn to rely on yourself more and maybe find yourself in the process. If your relationships with your friends and girlfriend are meant to last, you will find a way to communicate with them regularly.

Happy travels,


Hello Kristen,

Recently, I’ve been wanting to explore my faith more. I can’t explain it well, but I feel like something is missing in my life. I come from an informal “cafeteria Catholic” background, so my family was never very religious. However, I’m a full-time student, work two jobs and have many extracurriculars. Is this the time for me to explore my faith, and if so, how?


— Curious

Hello Curious,

At the risk of sounding cliche, it’s always a right time to question, love and learn about your religion. It’s important to determine whether your faith is truly what’s missing. Religion is not just about filling a void, but creating meaningful ways to be fulfilled and live our lives with purpose.

There are many ways to be a more involved Catholic and still have time for other demands in your life. Lent, the 40-day period of penance for Catholics, starts next week, beginning with Ash Wednesday. It may be soon, but Lent is a great opportunity to learn about sacrifice and to develop a personal relationship with God.

If you’re ever confused or feel like Lent may be too big of a burden, stop by the Newman House, which is a five-minute walk right behind Newing College. This Catholic church offers services and a prominent student community. The Newman House is receptive to all and would be a great place to ask questions or attend Mass.

If you don’t have time for services, buy yourself a “learning Bible” that explains the significance of the readings. Make a goal to read a certain amount of the scripture, but don’t beat yourself up if you find it hard to follow.

Find a way of learning that is meaningful to you. Not everyone feels closer to God just by going to church or reading. Praying, being consciously more kind to others or even talking to members of your faith may help you feel more in touch with your Catholicism than traditional methods.

Good luck,