Anyone who has ever been accepted to or participated in Northeastern's N.U.in Program will tell you that it is simultaneously the best and worst thing that has ever happened to them. Whether receiving your acceptance to the program was the highlight or downfall of your college admissions process, the N.U.in program of sending first-year students abroad is something unique to the Northeastern community. Despite the overwhelming and comprehensive information about the program, there are many aspects of the N.U.in program that cannot be explained until experienced.
1. You will overpack.
No matter how many times your site-leads, International Student Advisors, and past N.U.in students warn you, you will completely overpack. Whether you take too many pairs of heels that you will never wear, fifteen pairs of the same black leggings, or four different colors of the same shirt, you will most definitely pack articles of clothing, accessories, or unneeded junk that, at the end of the semester, you will realize you didn't need. Then, you will end up leaving half those things behind in exchange for all the new merchandise purchased throughout the semester. Or, if you're anything like my roommate, you will buy two new suitcases and struggle to carry all four through the airport home.
2. Culture shock is real, even in English speaking countries.
Pre-departure orientation consists of a large group of Northeastern students who listen to speech after speech about safety, communal living, traveling, budgeting, but most of all, culture shock. Culture shock is spoken about as if it is a medical term, something almost contagious, and the majority of students sitting in the audience will brush it off. But, truly, culture shock happens to all N.U.in students, even those in English speaking countries. Whether you experience it from being told breadcrumbs are not sold in the grocery store or realizing that the accent you thought was so adorable can be pretty hard to understand, culture shock hits everyone at some point. And hard.
3. You will take classes, and, yes, you will have to study.
Throughout my orientation, the only thing my mom kept saying was "Yeah, you are going to travel and explore, but what about the classes?" It seems that preparing students for the transition to adulthood while abroad leaves academics on the back-burner. Everyone tells you the classes are easy because most are pass/fail, but what they don't say is that it is still new material and classes in which you will need to stay organized and put in study time. Don't forget, co-ops can see your transcript in the future, even if the classes are pass/fail to come back to Northeastern.
4. Traveling is both fun and cheap, but also try staying put (for a bit).
Ryanair. Airbnb. Weekend traveling across Europe. Seems like a dream, and it is. Traveling cheaply and quickly when abroad is one of the best aspects of the N.U.in program. But, keep in mind, staying put in the city you have chosen to call home allows you to really discover the ins-and-outs of that city. You can't call a place home until you know it like the back of your hand. Give yourself lots of time to wander, explore, and enjoy the best of your location. Then, go travel, because that's fun, too.
5. Making friends is hard with a smaller pool of individuals.
One of the biggest fears of moving into college, abroad or not, is making friends. Many of the N.U.in locations have groups of 50-100 students. This is not a lot of people, and it may be hard to find people that share your exact interests or have the same passions. But, give it time, and you will find people that you genuinely enjoy spending time with. You will learn to appreciate the differences in the type of people you meet, and maybe, even come to be friends with people who you may not have befriended if not for this program.
6. You will miss home, even though you "swear, for sure” you won’t.
Taking off on that flight to your location, it is easy to promise that you are now a full-blown independent college student living abroad. You will claim that you are ready to take full responsibility for your life and take charge. Then, one day, you'll wake up or get sick or see something that reminds you of home. You will cry. You will FaceTime your mom. You will cry even more. You'll get some Nutella. Then, you'll find a routine of keeping contact with those you love at home and continue your amazing journey.
7. You will re-invent yourself in the place you call your new home.
Wherever you end up, it is going to be a change. That is something anyone entering into N.U.in can expect. But what is unexpected is that not only will your surroundings change, but so will you. You will grow into your own skin in ways that a regular college experience just could not allow. You will discover new interests, pick up new habits, and explore a new side of yourself all because you have relocated to a new environment. That environment influences both good and bad changes in your character that will influence the rest of your college career.
8. Saying goodbye will be difficult and emotional.
Just as it was leaving your hometown friends, family, and house, so it will be at your N.U.in location. The places you frequent, the people you live with, the friends you have made have all quickly become a part of a life that you led for an entire semester. It is not so easy to say goodbye to the wonder of being abroad nor the person you were while you were away. Leaving is never easy and leaving a place that you have come to love is hard.
9. Reverse culture shock is also real.
A more interesting concept than culture shock is reverse culture shock. Coming back to America, you will find that you can be annoyed with certain mannerisms and traditions that went undetected prior to going abroad. You will wish and crave certain things from your location. You will want to go back very badly. The initial happiness of being home will fade into comparing your life abroad to your life at home. At one point, you will realize that the independence you had there does not exist here. Reverse culture shock will get you.
10. Moving into "normal" college is a whole new obstacle to overcome.
One of the biggest complaints of any N.U.in student is that they feel as though they are missing out on the "normal" or "real" college experience that their hometown friends are having their first-semester. But, after you finish an incredible and action-packed semester abroad, you will now have to navigate a whole new pool of people and classes. You will, again, have to settle into a strange environment, meet new friends, have a new roommate, and begin difficult classes. It is difficult to move in when the first-year students not in N.U.in have already established groups of friends, work routines, and life here at Northeastern. But, keep in mind that there are so many N.U.in students in the same exact position. Join some clubs, get involved, delve into your school work, and get out there. Then, just as your location quickly became your home, you will begin to discover the amazing things both Northeastern and Boston have to offer, and it will too become your home.