It’s weird to think that it was only last month that I was living in England. Now, I am back in my old room in my parents” house in the US, wondering if the whole study abroad thing was just a dream.
It sounds dumb but four weeks after the fact, it feels like it has been a year since I left England. This time last year, I was just beginning to plan my trip and, lately I’ve been thinking about what I would tell future study abroad students based on my experience.
1. Being scared is completely normal. I remember talking to my international friends and being surprised by how many of them admitted to being scared out of their mind like I was before going to England.
2. Culture shock is real. For some reason, I thought because I spoke English, I would be immune to culture shock. Wrong-o. Even if you are going to a country where you know the language, be prepared to feel out of your element in more ways than one.
3. Patience is a necessity. The planning for my study abroad trip took nine months. Trust me, there will be a lot of hiccups and problems, and you have to be prepared to deal with them diplomatically.
4. You will survive without your entire closet. The idea of only taking one suitcase to England was mind-boggling to me but, I survived three months on a wardrobe that fit into one (XL) bag.
5. Take responsibility for planning your own study abroad trip. If your parents plan your entire trip, how are you going to know what to do when you get to the airport in a foreign place with no idea what has been planned or where you should go? Taking responsibility of planning is a good way to get into the study abroad mindset (where you will won’t have mom and dad to do everything for you).
6. Studying abroad is probably going to be the hardest experience of your life. People have a tendency to glamorize study abroad once they are home but as a precaution, it’s going to be tough at times. At some point, you are going to miss home, your friends and family, and you might find yourself obsessing over how much you miss one dollar bills or crying because the oven is in Celsius not Fahrenheit (ahem).
7. Studying abroad is probably going to be the most life-changing experience of your life. Once you get through the tough parts (see #6), study abroad is going to change the person you are and the person you eventually become. There is no way you can live in a foreign country and not come back changed and, likewise, people are going to change in your absence. This is normal and healthy.
8. It’s okay to ask questions. Your study abroad coordinator has been through this process with a million students. Ask as many questions as you need even if you think you are stupid. This includes things like “Do I need a visa?” and extends to things like “Is the area I will be living in safe?”.
9. Talk to your parents. If your parents are like mine, they were surprised when I told them I was planning to study abroad. Communicate with your parents even before you leave your home-country. Reassure them. Be nice to them. Their child is leaving them for several months for another country, they are probably as scared as you are.
10. Appreciate every moment. This is more of a life tip, I guess. In study abroad or anything in life, I feel most complete and satisfied when I take time to appreciate each moment. Even when your visa is delayed or your host-family hasn’t answered your carefully worded email, look for the good. You have an opportunity that many dream about so appreciate it and don’t waste time sulking.
Do you have any study abroad tips?