By Jessica Ward
Many study abroad alumni often cite their semester overseas as the time of their life. If you’re going abroad in the future, you have so much to look forward to! And while everyone rants and raves about their own experiences, there are a few things they leave out of their stories. Here are 7 things to keep in mind while you travel the world.
1. A semester really isn’t that long
Yeah, you probably realized this after you blinked and your freshman year was over. It goes double for studying abroad though- when you first get there, you’ll feel like you have all the time in the world to get to know your surroundings and explore to your heart’s content. It’s partially true considering fifteen weeks is longer than most people get to stay in a foreign country. However, it goes by faster than you thought possible. Try to deviate from your schedule in even the smallest ways— doing homework in a different cafe every week, taking the train to a town on the outskirts of the city, picking a direction and just walking to see what you stumble across— the more you shake up your routine, the more memories you’ll make!
2. You’ll learn a little bit of the language!
If you’re going somewhere that doesn’t speak English, you’re bound to pick up some of the conversational language during your stay. You’ll learn a little bit everywhere from public transportation, to menus, to street signs and advertisements. You’ll be amazed what you know by the end of the semester!
3. Budgeting will be harder than ever
Even if you’ve come up with a strict budgeting plan before taking off, the honest truth is you’ll have a very difficult time sticking to it. It’s easy to look at your time abroad from a bird’s eye view, but it’s a completely different ballgame once you’re actually there. Events, restaurants, momentos… not to mention additional international travel; all of these will become increasingly tempting, and you’ll find yourself making exceptions for certain things with your budget. That’s normal, and even encouraged sometimes! Just keep a close eye on your bank account and keep adjusting your budget plans accordingly.
4. You will accidentally offend a local
Look, no matter how much you research local customs and expectations, there are some things you just have to learn by messing up. For example, in some countries, it’s seen as insulting to tip your server. Insane, right? Cultural differences are bound to show, especially towards the beginning of your time abroad. When it happens, don’t beat yourself up over it, just apologize and move on. Now you know for next time!
5. You might get homesick, you might not. Either is okay.
Everyone reacts to change differently. You may find yourself missing home and all that comes with it— your family, your friends, your pet… But on the other hand, you might dive headfirst into your new adventure. You’ll likely fall somewhere on the wide spectrum between the two. Any and all reaction to change is okay and totally natural, but don’t hesitate to reach out for support if you need it.
6. You’ll be more independent than ever!
Studying abroad is wildly different from studying at your home college in many ways, one of them being your level of independence. For many students, this is the longest they’ve been away from home, likely without anyone else they know. You will have the most freedom you’ve ever had as a student abroad, but also the most responsibility.
7. Saying goodbye will be incredibly difficult
Like I said, time flies when you’re abroad. Before you know it, the semester will close out, and you’ll be on your way back home. Saying goodbye to this chapter of your life and everything in it is no simple feat. When you’re down to the final week of classes, make sure to visit your favorite spots one last time and tell your new friends what they mean to you. Do everything with intention during this time, and savor every moment leading up to it!