As my study abroad experience winds down, and I return to the States in the next two weeks, I’ve reflected on the things that I never expected or considered when I was preparing for this adventure. Whether you are studying abroad this summer, next semester, or next year, I hope this post imparts some guidance to what no one tells you about studying abroad.
1. It’s like starting freshman year all over again.
You just don’t get the help of orientation activities, clubs, and common areas to help you meet people. Most people seem to travel abroad with their friends, others, like me, try to be independent and go where I wanted to go. Studying abroad is a privilege, and I am honored that my parent’s let me study abroad, as the costs can prove inhibitive. That’s said, I feel like I have had to completely re-establish myself by finding new friends and meeting people who enjoyed my quirks. Except, I have noticed that when people come abroad with their friends, they aren’t as interested in making friends.
2. There will be times of loneliness.
As I said before, it’s difficult to come alone without a core friend group. I’ve had my fair share of loneliness watching people have their instant travel and bar-hopping buddies. I got through it, and really had to reach out of my comfort zone. Also, do what you want to do, and don’t wait on others to make it happen.
3. You will miss certain American food items LIKE CRAZY.
Do yourself a favor, and pack yourself some peanut butter. Because if you find it in your respective country, it’s not the same! Once I got here, I was dreaming about goldfish, cookie dough and my favorite version of Special K. Save yourself the trouble, and try and save room for your favorite snacks. You can use the empty space for your souvenir collection.
4. Traveling get’s HELLA expensive, and it’s exhausting.
Euro-tripping sound’s amazing. I thought so at first too. Until I realized how expensive it could be. Flights, hostels, food and museums add up fast. Unless you have been saving up for months and years for these trips or your parents chip in, you might just be staying put. And more people than you think are all about staying in the region too! I also quickly realized that I was exhausted when I was traveling two or three weeks in a row. And then I got sick. Take a little downtime, and make sure that you are living and experiencing the city you chose to study in, and not just using it as home base in between your fantastic weekends.
5. You will spend most of your money on food, transportation, and booze.
Trying new dishes and restaurants- TOTALLY WORTH IT. However, Keep the alcohol cheap and even, gasp, limit it , because you don’t want to waste all your money on being blacked out. Use those funds to have a memorable experience like renting a scooter for the afternoon or visiting a famous landmark.
6. There is pressure to go out every night, but please, do you!
There are many people here in Barcelona who seem to go out every night. Sometimes, it feels like everyone is going out. Some people can easily live that lifestyle, others need a break. Please feel strong enough to resist the temptation of clubbing 7 nights a week and get a good night’s sleep and your homework done every once in a while.
7. Some classes may be harder than in the U.S, and the indifference about that is too real.
I definitely have less work to do here, but my tests count more toward my grade. And that’s a scary thought, especially when that someone has test anxiety and loves the cushion of several smaller assignments to soak up an average test score. Also, don’t come abroad expecting your GPA to get a good bump, because that’s not going to happen. Just focus on maintenance, because you’re not going to have much time to study between all your traveling and exploring your city.
8. You will have FOMO.
Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my friend’s snapchats and Facebook posts at home, I wish I was there with them. You will get FOMO as you see them all together on Spring Break just goofing around, wondering what would happen if you’re there. But. Please don’t let this FOMO stop you because you are having the experience of a lifetime as cliche as it sounds. Check in with them occasionally, but don’t let their actions make you homesick.
No, I’m not saying hello! It’s a chrome add-on that makes it look like you’re browsing in the US, and makes it easy for you to watch Netflix. Because, even abroad, you’re not going to stop binge watching. It’s the best form of me-time out there!
But all in all, you will have the time of your life, experience self-growth and immerse yourself in a totally new country. As cliche as it is, you will have the experience of a lifetime. I’m so excited for you to start this amazing journey in your life!