6 Things You Should Know Before Going Abroad

You will grow up. You will have to become independent in more ways than you would have thought when you went away to college for the first time. It means learning the life skills you were never taught in school such as reading a map, learning how to interact with people who live a culture completely different from yours, and handling stressful last-minute situations like when you almost miss your bus back home or your flight to a weekend trip.

You are in someone else’s territory, literally. Think of being invited on vacation with someone and their family or staying over someone else’s house. Adjustments will have to be made when you change up your routine. The programs I did in Spain and France were only with American students. Some students had a harder time adjusting to being in a different country than others. You are not in the United States. Some places do have a Starbucks on every corner. Some places don’t have a Starbucks at all. It may not sound like a big problem, but I have met people who had a hard time adjusting to Spain and France because they compared it to the United States. They would get frustrated over the small coffee cup sizes or the fact the waiters didn’t constantly check up on you. They said they missed the United States and wished they were home. You will be with many people who are used to living a life that is different from yours. You can’t change them. You will have to adjust to how they are living. Knowing that and applying that will help you truly enjoy yourself.

Consider saving an old smartphone and bringing it. Some people will recommend to buy a pay-as-you-go phone abroad. I brought my current phone with me and bought a SIM card because I knew I was going to be careful with it. If you don’t want to run the risk of losing your phone or having it stolen, you should save your old smartphone and bring it with you. That way, you will be able to have the luxury of having a smartphone without buying a phone. You will also become a master at finding wifi.

You may not always get along with your host family. I already wrote a post on my homestay experiences, so I won’t go into detail on this one. However, before going abroad I had read about many people who got along with their family so much that they are continuing to stay in contact with them even after returning home. As much as you may hear that, that will not always be the case. Even so, it is still a great experience that I believe anyone who is studying abroad should look into.

Not all stereotypes are true. Do not pay attention to everything you read online. I like to be as best prepared as I can be before getting myself into a situation. Before going overseas, I researched everything from students’ experiences to what they packed to how safe Spain and France are. Even though every student’s experiences will be unique, I heard many of the same stereotypes: Europeans only wear dark colors, they don’t wear shorts, they don’t wear sneakers, the French are cold, etc. Not all of this is true. If you would like to see a different perspective based on my personal experiences, you can read my other posts.

It may not be what you think; it may be more. You hear everyone say that you will see new places, meet new people, and better your language skills, but you do not really hear about the person’s expectations. I have met Americans who were disappointed by their abroad experience because it wasn’t all they thought it would be. Other American students were thrilled because it exceeded their expectations. The best thing you can do is try not to go somewhere new with expectations of the place or the people. People will tell you their thoughts on the place or the people based on their experiences. You won’t have the same experiences. Ultimately, study abroad is what you make it, so make it count.

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