Why Studying Abroad Isn’t All That It’s Cracked Up to Be: And Why You Should do it Anyway
I think it’s time we be honest when it comes to studying abroad and not make it seem like something that it’s not. I want to be completely candid with you because I think that it will benefit you in the long-run if you ever decide to study abroad OR you are jealous of people who are currently studying abroad. Studying abroad isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, however, I 100% believe you should do it anyway and I’ll tell you why…
I thought that I was super independent before I made the move to London for my Master’s, but boy was I wrong. When I was in college (only 30 minutes from my house but I lived on campus) I would still come home every now and then for a warm cooked meal and my mom would help out with my laundry. Now, it’s all me. There is no one helping me with anything. I had to open a foreign bank account, by myself. I had to figure out and navigate a brand new country, by myself. I don’t get money from my parents either. I had to meet new people and adjust to a new learning curriculum. Most everything you do when you study abroad will be by yourself. Sure, you will make a few friends and that will be great. But everything else is on you. No one is holding your hand and helping you. Europe is cutthroat (in my opinion). They don’t hold your hand in school, you do everything by yourself and if you don’t do it – that’s on you. I think I took for granted my American degree and professors because if I was struggling I knew I could go to a professor and ask and figure things out. Here, if you are falling behind or if your grade isn’t that good, etc you’ve got to figure out how to get through it or fix it.
The flip side to this, however, is that you become fiercely independent. It’s an empowering thing to go through and know that you can do all of that by yourself. That you can rely on yourself and trust yourself to get things done. I did a solo trip to Ireland where I was terrified, because I was completely by myself, but I was also excited. It’s a time in your life where you grow up, quite honestly, and you realize that you can do things all on your own. You don’t need people always holding your hand and showing you the way. Your parent(s) raised you to one day take care of yourself and I believe study abroad really jump starts that for students.
Homesickness is a real thing. FOMO (fear of missing out) is a real thing. It’s all real, and sometimes a little too real. When I first landed in London, I was a wreck. I had just left my friends, family & boyfriend behind for a year in London. Sure, I chose to do this – but it’s still scary! Everything I mentioned previously was hitting me all at once, I felt immense pressure and stress all the time – I was a mess. I cried so much the first two days. All I wanted was my phone to work so I could call everyone back home. I wanted American food. I wanted to get back on that plane and go home. What the heck was I doing here? Why did I think I could spend a year away from everyone I love? Am I crazy?
The answer is: no. I wasn’t crazy and it’s turned into the best year of my life. Because, it will. It will do that. It will turn into one of the biggest adventures you’ve ever had. Whether you spend 6 months or a year studying abroad – it’s the best thing you can do for yourself and your education. Sure, you will miss everyone back home and yeah they are going to do stuff without you. I guess you could then look at it as – you’re studying abroad……you’re in another country…….you’re expanding your knowledge and you’re becoming more culturally aware of things – you’ve got it going on! So just embrace it and don’t worry, you will be on the plane home soon enough. Enjoy the time you have left.
3. Traveling Every Weekend.
Let’s be real for a minute…. you are here to study, right? So at some point – you have to do just that. I’m in a Master’s program and it’s no joke. Some weekends I am inside all weekend working on papers and assignments and I don’t have time to explore Europe. Plus, it can be exhausting. I’ve done it several times and even though I’m going to continue to do it – I believe you have to pace yourself. You can’t travel every single weekend. If you decide to travel while studying abroad (because who wouldn’t?) I would suggest maybe two weekends out of the month and then if you have a ‘reading’ week like I do, take that opportunity to see multiple places not just one place for the whole week. There are ways to do it so you don’t wear yourself but traveling every weekend isn’t always as glamorous as people think it is. I know I laugh at myself every time I tell my Mom where I’m going, “Oh, I’m just going to pop over to Italy” no big deal. It’s funny because sometimes I even take being over here for granted but I know how fortunate I am and that it’s the year of a lifetime. So do yourself a favor and plan a few trips (or be spontaneous, even better) before your studies get too intense and then pace yourself. This time is going to fly by and before you know it – you haven’t gone places that you wanted to and you definitely will not have seen all of Europe.
4. Parle-vous Francais?
Don’t worry, not a lot of people even know what that says. It translates “Do you speak French?” Most people, I’ve talked to, think that when they move to Europe or study abroad they automatically become fluent in another language or adopt the accent but it doesn’t quite work like that. Unless you are studying another language, living with a host family or constantly around someone who speaks that language – you won’t become fluent off the bat. Also, mostly everywhere in Europe is English friendly. I always try and learn key phrases and how to say “hi” and “thank you” in the languages of where I’m traveling but as far as becoming fluent, that takes time. Most universities over here offer a language scheme that I would have taken advantage of but see the way my schedule is set up….. So I’ve just had to learn bits of languages on my own. Believe me, if I could be speaking in French all day, every day – I totally would. Props to you guys who come over here and go home with accents and a second or third language – I wish I had more time to do so!
Studying abroad isn’t pretty pictures every day and traveling to foreign places every weekend. Studying abroad can be messy, tough and hard to navigate. It can be challenging and overwhelming at times but it’s worth it. It’s worth every day you spend abroad and so much more. You will make lifelong friends. You will travel to places that are on your Pinterest ‘Bucket List’ board. You might meet someone & fall in love (who knows)! You will increase your network. You will learn in a different style. You will become fiercely independent. You will increase your job prospects. You will be amazing.
No, studying abroad isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be but boy is it worth it.