Studying abroad is undeniably an incredible and life-changing experience. However, everyone involved in international education, from companies to student advisors, are so vehemently intent on pushing the picture-perfect image of studying abroad that it can sometimes be difficult to find honest advice. So here are five honest things that are good to hear before going abroad.
1. Homestays aren’t for everyone
Homestays can be the best form of cultural immersion when they go right. This means that if they’re an option in a program you’re considering, it’s likely that at one point or another you will feel pressured into choosing that as your housing option. In all honesty though, not everyone is suited for a homestay. Maybe you highly value your privacy or independence. Or, maybe you’re just a really picky eater. Regardless of your reasoning: you know yourself best, so don’t let anyone push you into a homestay if you’re not sure about it. Your living arrangement can be a big part of your experience, so choose what’s best for you.
© Jennifer Wankmuller
2. Not every moment will be perfect
Not every moment will be perfect and that’s completely okay. You’re not away on a one-week vacation; you’re abroad for a long term. Statistically speaking, you’re bound to have a bad day, or even a bad week. You’re also in a country that you’re not familiar with, and things are bound to go wrong from time to time. This is all completely normal and you will still be able to walk away with your time abroad having been an overwhelmingly positive experience.
3. You should make time for yourself
This isn’t something that will be heavily encouraged, because safety is certainly a factor here. Obviously, don’t go skipping through parks or down dark alleyways alone in the middle of the night. You’ll make plenty of new friends while abroad, but it’s still good to have some of your own experiences. They don’t have to be extravagant trips. They can be something as simple as grabbing coffee at a café you want to try or wandering your neighborhood to get to know it a little better.
© Jennifer Wankmuller
4. Reverse culture shock can be worse than regular culture shock
You will be thoroughly warned about culture shock before going abroad. And if reverse culture shock is even mentioned, it likely won’t be highlighted to the same degree. However, it can be a lot worse. You’ll have just spent months meeting cool new people and having all kinds of adventures and returning home may be depressingly boring. This isn’t meant to scare you, but advise you rather. Simply being conscious of this toward the end of your time abroad and the start of your time back home can help significantly.
5. You will mess up
You might crack your phone screen while nearly falling off a mountain. You might even get stuck on the side of a mountain and have to call air rescue. Or, maybe you forget your jacket that has your phone, keys, and wallet in it in coat check at a club. It is basically a guarantee that you will mess up, but it is almost as much of a guarantee that it will make for an interesting story. If you’re lucky, it might even be one of your greatest memories to hold onto when you return home.
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Cover photo © Jennifer Wankmuller