Chances are you have a friend or two who has studied abroad. You have probably sat at home drooling over Eiffel Tower Instagrams, your friend’s new chic ~European~ look, or you’ve sat through endless tales of perfect days abroad. While all of these paint a fairy tale picture of what a study abroad experience is like, these glimpses leave out some pretty important details. Don’t get me wrong-for most part, what you are seeing or hearing about is true. Studying abroad really is amazing. Yes, you absolutely should study abroad if given the opportunity. However, study abroad isn’t always as easy, pleasant, or magical as it appears. Keep reading to discover 8 things they don’t tell you about studying abroad!
1. You actually do have to study
Most of my friends returned home from studying abroad commenting on how “easy” all of their classes were. While many study abroad students do notice that classes are less stressful, and maybe even a bit simpler, there are still tests to take and homework to complete. It’s easy to get caught up in the experience and fall behind, so don’t let your friends fool you-you are still in school.
2. You might not like it
While most of the abroad students I’ve met in my year working for a student travel company loved their study abroad experience, there are always a few who don’t. Some even return home. For some of these students, being away from home for the first time is challenging, for others it’s a miserable home stay experience, or difficulty adjusting to a different culture. Whatever the reason, you may not like it, and that’s okay. If you stick it out, you’ll take away something valuable from the experience either way.
3. You will spend a LOT of money
Even if your study abroad program is the same price as a normal semester at your school, I can promise you that you will spend a lot of money (unless you don’t plan on traveling at all-which is usually not the case). Budget. Save as much money as you can beforehand. Bring even more money than you need. I promise more money will come in handy when your best friends are all planning a last-minute weekend trip that you hadn’t anticipated. For money-saving tips, check out my post Study Abroad on a Budget: Top 9 Ways to Save.
4. You might-and probably will-get homesick
For many, a study abroad experience is the farthest distance and longest time spent away from home. This, coupled with exhaustion from travel, Facebook photos of friends back home causing FOMO, and living in an entirely new environment can create some serious homesickness. Whether it hits you on your birthday (I cried like a baby on my first birthday away from home!), Thanksgiving, or a random afternoon, sooner or later, you are bound to feel a little homesick. This is okay, and perfectly normal. Avoid giving into the homesickness too much, and instead focus on filling your days getting to know the new people, places, and things that surround you.
5. Culture shock- it’s real
So real in fact, that there are even stages which describe this phenomena.
- The Honeymoon Stage-You’ll fall in love and be fascinated by all aspects of your new temporary home.
- The Frustration Stage-Little things, like getting lost, not knowing the local language, or getting lost will start to aggravate you.
- The Adjustment Stage- Slowly but surely, you will look for ways to adjust to a new culture. Asking questions at about the local culture at school or befriending a local are great ways to work on this.
- The Acceptance Stage-You’ll begin to accept the fact that you aren’t a local and can never fully blend into your host country’s culture and that these differences are okay, and do not prevent you from living a balanced, happy daily life.
The biggest aspects of culture shock I experienced living in Italy were catcalling and bureaucracy. Both equally annoying and frustrating. Eventually, I learned to ignore the “Ciao Bella” and “Ciao Bionda“. I still have yet to figure out Italy’s bureaucracy mess of a “system,” and have completely given up trying to.
6. So is reverse culture shock
While not everyone experiences reverse culture shock (the feeling upon returning home that “home” is somehow no longer home), many do. For some, this manifests as a sadness upon returning home, trouble relating to old friends, or the feeling that your heart belongs in another city. This, just like culture shock, will eventually pass.
7. Bad things still happen
While you will experience many amazing things abroad, chances are you will experience some not-so-amazing things as well. You might get pick pocketed, sick, extremely lost, receive sad news…just like home, things aren’t always perfect. However, it is in these challenging or frustrating moments that the true magic of study abroad lies. When I returned home from studying abroad, I felt much more independent because I was able to figure out how to get myself out of these sticky situations. If you find yourself feeling stressed out abroad, try reading this post all about keeping your stress in check while abroad.
8. Despite all this, studying abroad will be one of the best experiences of your life
Okay, maybe this one isn’t exactly a secret, but you won’t fully believe it unless you’ve studied abroad yourself. So what are you waiting for? Head on over to your campus study abroad center ASAP and get planning!
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Have you studied abroad? What didn’t you expect beforehand? Let me know in the comments!
For more great posts on studying abroad, try these links!
- Study Abroad on a Budget: Top 9 Ways to Save
- Top 10 Ways to Maximize Your Time Studying Abroad
- 10 Ways To Keep Stress In Check When Studying Abroad
- The Essential Dos and Donts of Studying Abroad
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