5 things you don’t know on your first week of study abroad.
By Josi Tiffany of 09/21/17
It’s okay to be vulnerable about your experiences.
Before you read this, keep in mind this blog is supposed to help you, not scare you away from studying abroad. When you see people post their experiences when they study abroad you think “Wow that’s so cool! That would be so much fun to do.” Many people don’t tell their struggles when they study abroad. Who doesn’t? You want your friends and family to think you’re having a good time (which you will). It’s okay to be vulnerable about your experiences. It might help someone along the way!
I wish someone had told me these things before I studied abroad. It would have made my transition (and others) much easier.
1. You will be overwhelmed and that’s okay. Being in a different country is another journey in itself. Everything is new and different. I remember thinking to myself “how will I get used to this? Will this ever be fun?” Yes it does, it takes time. You will be overwhelmed by culture shock, new language, different food, new dorm room, and being in a different country. Your adjustment will become easier once you break out of your comfort zone. This is what studying abroad is all about.
2. You will get lost. Honestly it makes up for a great story. On the second day of being in Italy, my roommate and I were trying to find the local market. Our other roommates told us it wasn’t that far. Just the two of us were trying to find the market, and we ended up getting lost for 2 hours! In all honesty it was fun. We ended up seeing different parts of the city. We saw statues, beautiful buildings, and more. To help us during our journey, we used our phones and remembered landmarks to know where were going. Some other things you can do are bring a map, ask a local for directions, or tell someone where you went. Each of these things will help you remember your new home better.
3. You will find out you’re not alone. Some people adapt to change better than others. When you start making friends and talking to people, you find out that you’re not the only one feeling stressed, excited, etc. During orientation I met a girl who felt as nervous as I did being in a different country. It was comforting to know I wasn’t alone.
4. You slowly start becoming more independent. This may sound odd but let me explain. During the first couple of days I was always with my roommates. We would eat, go shopping, and do everything together. It got to the point where I wanted to do things on my own. For my fellow introverts, you can agree. One day I wanted to go shopping for clothes on my own. Thankfully I got an international SIM card and could put the address in my phone. If you don’t have one, maps will work too. My point is walking around alone made me aware of where to go, less scared of doing things by myself, and it was great alone time. I never thought in a million years I would walk around in a foreign country on my own, but I did. Now I have no problem doing things on my own.
5. You will learn a lot. First you will learn a lot about the culture, more than you ever could in a book. This is because you are experiencing the culture first hand. For example, my perception of Italian food is way different than it actually is. It was a nice eye opener, because it allowed me to try different types of foods and go out of my comfort zone. You will also learn the language. To make this transition easier, I screen shot common phrases in Italian. I would make an effort to say something in Italian everyday. It’s hard at first but it does get easier. You will learn the outside perspective of the American culture. After a couple of days, it was easy to spot an American. Most of the time they are loud, don’t dress well, and obnoxious. This does not apply to all American’s.
Nothing is going to be perfect, but you can still make your experience worthwhile. Enjoy the rest of your study abroad experience.
Featured Image credit to @cahnerolson