10 Things No One Tells You About Studying Abroad
Studying abroad in Paris during my sophomore year spring was by far my favorite college memory.
I got to live in a beautiful little apartment in Saint-Germain-des-Près, attend school at Sciences Po, explore Paris every day, and make friends from all around the world.
Here are the top 10 things that no one tells you about studying abroad before you go…
1. You might be homesick at first…
…but give it a few weeks and you’ll forget that you ever were.
While I personally didn’t get homesick, plenty of people I know who studied abroad did.
But ALL of them ended up loving their study abroad once they got settled in and got into a routine. Homesickness will pass, just give it a little time.
2. You’ll become more self-reliant.
When you’re facing a problem and you realize you’re totally alone in a foreign country, you’ll have no choice but to become more self-reliant and deal with it.
The bus that’s supposed to pick you and your friends up in the middle of rural Switzerland never showed up and you have no cell service? No worries, you will figure it out!
The sink in your apartment starts leaking and you have to go to the local French hardware store by yourself to buy the replacement part? No problem at all!
3. No matter what, you’ll overpack.
I don’t care how many study abroad packing lists you read and how meticulously you plan your packing, you will still end up overpacking for study abroad.
I consider myself a major minimalist when it comes to packing, and yet I still ended up bringing too much stuff. Those art supplies I for some reason thought I’d use and that extra bath towel I packed, despite moving into a fully furnished apartment? Yeah, I never touched them.
4. You’ll miss the weirdest things.
When you’re living in a foreign country, you’ll miss the weirdest and most random things from home.
Like Pop-Tarts. Which will lead you to buying a $7 box of Pop-Tarts at an American grocery store across the city to satisfy your cravings. (Not speaking from experience here or anything.)
5. You can live without cellphone service.
This one may become obsolete soon because it seems like a lot of phone carriers are offering free or cheap international data now. But when I studied abroad, it was extremely expensive and not worth it to pay for data, and I couldn’t get a local SIM card because my phone wasn’t unlocked.
So I spent the whole semester living off Wifi only instead and I actually grew to love it. None of my study abroad friends had cellphone service either, so we spent a lot more time actually being together and not constantly being on our phones.
6. You’ll find “your” local spots.
Over the course of studying abroad, you’ll develop “your” spots in your neighborhood… your favorite grocery store, your preferred crepe stand, your chosen bench at the local park.
These are just random little places that over time become special to you and you’ll be sad to say goodbye to them when it’s time for you to go home.
7. It’ll go by so fast you won’t realize it’s over.
A whole semester sounds like a long time, but I can tell you it goes by so fast and before you even realize it, your study abroad semester will be over and it will be time to go home.
And you WON’T be ready to leave, and then you’ll probably start researching ways to live abroad again immediately. (Hello, grad school abroad?)
8. You’ll make lifetime friends.
Your study abroad crew will always be special. They’re the people you navigated a foreign country and culture with, traveled with, and went on random adventures with.
If your study abroad program is anything like mine was, you’ll end up with friends from around the world by the end of it and memories with them that will last a lifetime.
9. You’ll experience reverse culture shock.
When you come home, you’ll experience re-entry shock, AKA reverse culture shock.
Things that once seemed familiar will seem novel and strange. For me, it was being surprised by how overly friendly people in customer service are in the United States. I was so used to the not rudeness but just detached aloofness in France that it was shocking!
10. No one at home will ever quite understand.
When you get home you’ll find yourself starting way too many stories with “One time, when I was abroad…” You’ll become THAT annoying person who can’t stop talking about studying abroad.
But most people at home will never fully get it. While you were gone and you entire life changed, theirs stayed the same. So while others may not understand, the time you spent abroad will become a special memory that you will carry with you forever.
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