Getting The Better of your Study Abroad Fears
How studying abroad and taking charge of your fears can change you
Before deciding to study abroad, a question that will undoubtedly come to mind is, “is it worth it?” Excuses such as these may come to mind, but the truth is the most unappealing aspect of studying abroad is usually fear. For a lot of people, studying abroad means living in a new culture where you don’t know anyone, where you’ll have to adjust to a new lifestyle and carve a place for yourself. When I hopped on my plane to study abroad in the UK, I was terrified, and while it can be easy to say that fear helps you grow and learn, it’s a lot different to actually live it. But when you study abroad, it’s something you have to face, and once you do, it’s almost cliché just how much it helps you grow and change as a person.
Step outside of your comfort zone
For most people, studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity to live abroad and travel. When you only have a limited time in a new place, you’re not going to want to sit around and let the days pass, you’re going to want to experience new things! It can be intimidating at first, trying to figure out how a new culture works, how to meet new people and get around, but pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is the only way to do it.
All it really takes is one step out of your comfort zone to get the ball rolling. I remember after the first trip I took outside of my home city, just a forty five minute bus ride to York, England, I suddenly felt that I was capable of going anywhere. A lot of times, the idea of something sounds a lot more challenging or scarier than it really is. I remember thinking, “How will I get there? I don’t know the transportation system, I don’t know how to get around in this country!” Once I did it, it wasn’t hard at all, and I started dreaming of trips to bigger cities, and to places farther away.
It was similar when it came to meeting new people, which is often one of the biggest fears when moving to a new place. How will you make friends? The truth is, there’s not one fool-proof answer to this question. A lot of time, the most (and least) it can take is just walking over to a new person and talking to them.
Getting to know one person can give you confidence in getting to know more people, and one new friend can lead you to a group of new friends. Just make sure to get to know people outside of those like yourself- it can be really easy to want to just talk to other students studying abroad. Talk to people who live in the culture you’re visiting! Getting to know a local can open a lot of doors to a place or a culture.
Instead of asking “why,” ask “why not?”
Sometimes you can’t stop to question yourself on why you should do something- you’ve just got to do it! Why not try new kinds of food? Why not take a spontaneous weekend trip? Why not talk to a new person? Why not splurge a little for a once in a lifetime opportunity? A lot of times, while traveling, there aren’t a lot of good reasons not to do something. Taking hold of new chances and opportunities can turn into some of your best memories of studying abroad.
When you do things you wouldn’t have expected yourself to, you realize just how brave you really are. You’ll be a lot more glad you did something than if you had let fear get in the way, and once you start pushing yourself, you’ll only want to do more! Sometimes, traveling or living in a new place is only as stressful as you make it, and once you start going outside of the box, you’ll discover things about yourself you might not have expected. For me, I was always very shy, but once I started pushing myself to talk to new people, it opened so many doors and made my time abroad so much more fun, and I made friends I’ll never forget.
I have never heard of anyone who regretted their time abroad. A lot of times, it’s just the opposite. Most people regret not taking the chance to live abroad, so if you have the chance, take it! It may just turn out to be your favorite year, or semester, of college, and you will definitely be a different person coming out of it than you were going into it.
For me, I came out more outgoing, more adventurous, and more willing to take chances. It’ll open your eyes to a new way of exploring the world, not just by visiting new places, but by meeting new people, eating new food, and exploring different cultures. Don’t let fear stop you from your travels, rather, use it as a challenge and turn it into an adventure!