One month ago, I landed at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. After having already spent a semester abroad, I didn’t know what to expect for the coming semester. I had returned home for a two-week break, which went by so fast. Although I arrived to France with a new confidence that I didn’t have when going to Spain, I also had some familiar feelings rushing through me: excitement, doubt, curiosity, sadness, and everything in between. One thing I made sure to do was to separate this experience from my previous semester. Although I would be in a program similar to the one I was in Spain, I knew my experience would be different. I would be in a new place with new people and a new language. It’s so strange though how everyone has a unique experience but goes through very similar feelings. I thought I would be different from most people in my program, considering I had done this once before, but I found myself still being able to relate to others.
What are some things I have learned since my first semester abroad?
It goes by fast, and because the semester will go by fast, don’t take it for granted. The first few weeks might not feel like they are going by fast when you are in the process of making friends and experiencing homesickness, but once classes start, time flies and you find yourself trying to keep up with it. I’m already planning trips for the next couple of months, trying to make sure I get to see all the places that I want to go to.
I also learned how important it is to take care of myself and how much it can affect the overall study abroad experience. Last semester, I traveled every weekend. It was great, but I didn’t get the rest I needed. I took many night buses and ended up not sleeping much if at all and I’d be going and going all day. During the week, I had school. Lack of sleep really affects my mood and I can already see a difference between my attitude this semester and what I was like last semester. Resting and balancing time are so important.
Both of my experiences overseas are unique and I wouldn’t take them back. In Spain I learned a lot about what it was like to live in a city, travel (in groups, alone, booking lodging), and integrate into a place that I didn’t know at all through learning about different customs and trying to create my own daily routine. In Nantes, I know what it’s like to have to go buy a SIM card using a foreign language, to not run every time I am crossing the street, to get the server’s attention if I actually want to order something or pay for my meal, and to not leave a tip, all because these things were new to me last semester but no longer are. I still have to make adjustments, there is still a lot to learn, I still miss my family and friends, but now that I have done it before, it makes this time easier.