If you’ve been following me for a while, you may already know that my study abroad experience was far from what I ever expected. As someone who has had an intense love affair with French culture, it was a no-brainer that I would spend a semester in the country I had longed for all the years. The shock was that I would crave nothing more than to be right back in Kentucky at every stage of this experience.
As I reflect on this adventure, I’m trying to think about what went wrong. What did I do to make this experience so drastically different for me than for others? How did my preparation fail me? And, most importantly, how can I prevent someone else from feeling that way that I have?
Without further ado, here is everything I wish I had known before I studied abroad.
This one has probably been covered before, but more likely under the name “homesickness.” I expected to miss home and I prepared for that in the form of handwritten letters, a giant Harold blanket, and comforting reminders of home. But I wasn’t expecting to feel as lonely as I did.
I personally think that in an effort not to scare students away from studying abroad, people mask this feeling as homesickness, when, in actuality, it’s more a feeling of loneliness. And while there are varying degrees of this, everyone will go through it. Whether you’ve made friends with everyone in your class, or you have an incredible host family, or you’re like me and just prefer having time to yourself, there is going to be that day in the grocery store where you look around and realize that you can’t communicate with the strangers around you.
Prepare yourself for these days. These are the toughest days. Unfortunately, I don’t have much of a solution to this other than to power through it. The day will pass and so will the feeling, I promise.
Stuck in Time
There comes a certain point in your experience where you going to feel stuck. You can’t work, therefore your bank account is going to start running low. You’ll have to prioritize the trips you want to take. Your coursework will start to pile up. You’ll start feeling like you’ll never get the hang of the language. It’ll all come crashing together all at once and you’ll start to feel this halt in your timeline.
But just like this happens back at home, this period of insanity will go away. You’ll calm down. Things will figure themselves out. And that’s when you’ll realize how you’ve grown.
You’ll Be Changed
The experience, no matter how bad, will be beneficial. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. If you asked me how my time in France was and I said something like “It was great! I loved every second of it!” then that was a lie. The truth is, I did not enjoy my time in France. This experience was a major struggle for me and if I had it to do over again, I would in a heartbeat.
But, while I would definitely change the circumstances of this experience, I would still do it.
You see, through this experience, I was able to learn so much about myself, like the fact that I rely heavily on the support of my loved ones. Remember the part about loneliness? Well, that hit me out of the blue so much because I have always considered myself a homebody, a textbook introvert. I never realized how much I depended on quality time with my friends, family, and Elliott.
Coming back, I now know how important these people are to me and I will nurture our relationship more closely. Without this experience, I don’t know that I would have ever found myself at this realization.
Studying abroad may be one of the best experience you have as a college student and I really hope that it is! Seeing a new part of the world, submerging yourself in a different culture, and learning to live completely on your own can be an extremely gratifying adventure! I hope that reading this doesn’t scare you away from the opportunity to live abroad, but rather shows you the hardships that are to come and prepares you to get the most out of your experience abroad.
As always, if you like this article, be sure to share it on social media! And if you have any questions, comments, or just need someone to talk to, reach out to me! Especially if you are finding yourself in a similar situation as I was in! I really want to help you make the most out of your experience!