College Student Life | Indiana Wesleyan University

Study Abroad: Expectations Vs. Reality

The good, the bad, and the study.

When preparing for a semester abroad, it’s easy to start the journey with a list of expectations: what the food will be like, how many countries you’ll visit, and all the friends you will make. While this can be help you prepare for your experience, it can also set your expectations too high (or too low). As this College Tourist prepares to head back to the states after a semester in Spain, I have compiled a list of expectations vs. realities to help you prepare for you study abroad experience:

The “study” part of study abroad is merely a suggestion

While studying abroad allows you to travel in your free time, you do actually have to attend classes. A bummer, I know, but that just makes your weekend trips all the more rewarding. Which leads me to my next point:

You should travel every weekend

Save some time (and money) and choose a few weekends to stay in your host city. Not only will you get a few days to relax, you’ll be able to experience weekend life as a local and learn more about the culture!

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You’ll become super fluent super fast

Many tales of semesters abroad passed have conjured the notion that if you study abroad for a few months in a foreign country, you will leave with impeccable fluency. While you will definitely improve your language skills, it is extremely hard to become fluent in a language in just a few months. Use your semester abroad as a way to start learning a language or a way to continue to grow your skills!

More: 11 Tips for Learning a Language While Studying Abroad

You will lose weight from all the walking

Yes, you are walking a lot more on those European cobblestone streets. But those cobblestone streets lead to bakeries, paella, and gelato. If you have to buy new (bigger) clothes, we won’t judge and at least they’ll be fashionable.

More: The Ultimate European Food Guide.

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You will immediately get along with your host family or flat mates

Living in a new country is hard. Living with people that don’t share your language is even harder. It’s normal to have some uncertainty and even some conflict in your living situation. Focus on the positives of the experiences and use it as a way to learn more about intercultural relationships and practice the language. Odds are, you’ll end up loving your host fam.

You will be happy all the time

Despite what the countless instagrams, witty captions, and facebook posts may suggest, sometimes study abroad isn’t all sunshine and rainbow snapchat filters. You will have days where you miss home or you get a bad grade on an exam. That’s ok! You’re still experiencing all of the stresses of college and living alone, you just happen to be doing it in a foreign country. Grab some of your study abroad friends, talk things through, and drown those sorrows in some churros and chocolate. Tomorrow is a new day full of so many fabulous adventures.


It will be easy to leave

Of all the expectations on this list, this has to be the hardest reality. You will want to see family and friends from home but you won’t want to leave the life you made abroad. You will miss having café con leche everyday. You will miss your corner bakery. You will miss the beautiful architecture. If there’s one reality you will experience, however, it is that you will want to come back. Maybe after you graduate, maybe with a spouse, maybe with your own family. Don’t treat the end of your semester abroad as a goodbye, treat it as a see you later.

More: The Reality of Reverse Culture Shock

The good, the bad, and the study.

Alyssa Benson

Indiana Wesleyan University | 7 stories

From the Great Lakes State all the way to Barcelona, Spain to study Strategic Communication and Intercultural Studies at the University of Barcelona. I am mildly obsessed with all things pineapples and am always on the hunt for the hidden cafes and viewpoints of my travels. 8 Countries and counting!

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