It's true what they say about studying abroad: it's an experience you'll never forget. I just came back to the US after studying in Italy for three months and I learned so much while I was there. Not just a new culture and a new language, but also about traveling and living abroad. If you want to or are planning on studying abroad, here are 12 pros and cons to look forward to and be prepared for:
1. Pro: Being in a new country.
This is the most exciting part of studying abroad. If you're not used to traveling or, like me, have never traveled outside of the US before, then spending a whole semester in a foreign country is as fun as it is overwhelming.
2. Con: Culture shock
This is the overwhelming part. By the middle of the semester you will be familiar with your new temporary home, but the first few weeks are the toughest part as you try to settle down, figure your way around and blend in with the locals. And as crazy as it sounds, you will also experience culture shock when you come back to the US.
3. Pro: Being independent.
Living on your own while studying abroad is different from living on your own in a college dorm. Some colleges have their own campuses abroad where you'll be in a dorm like back home, or your program may put you in an apartment, a hotel, or living with a local family. Either way, it's more fun than being in a college dorm. After a while you'll feel like you're a local yourself!
4. Con: Figuring things out on your own.
You'll have a new appreciation for basic housing necessities back home because in most other countries, they can be luxuries. My apartment in Italy didn't have a dryer, dishwasher or an electric stove, which all took some getting used to in the first weeks. Also, everything will be in a foreign language, which made it extra difficult to figure out how to wash my clothes.
5. Pro: Learning a new language.
Unless you're studying in an English-speaking country, one of the pluses of studying abroad is learning a new language. It helps you immerse more in a new culture, and you'll get to impress your friends when you come back home!
6. Con: Not being fluent in the language.
Unless you learned from an early age or are a genius, learning a new language, while fun, is not easy. Being in a foreign country challenges you to learn the language but whether it's for a few weeks, a few months or even a year, chances are you will not be fluent by the end.
7. Pro: Traveling.
In between classes and homework, you will have plenty of opportunities to travel outside whichever city you are studying in to see other cities or even other countries. Traveling and sightseeing on the weekends really makes the most of your time abroad, and makes for great study breaks!
8. Con: Being broke.
Taking out money in a foreign country is a hassle. Currency exchange rates can be crazy and depending on which bank you use, you will be charged a ton of fees. Studying abroad takes "broke college student" to a whole new level.
9. Pro: Meeting new people
Don't take it personally if the locals are a little cold towards you in the beginning but after a while, if you go to the same restaurant or shop enough times, they will warm up to you. You might even make some new, international friends while you're there!
10. Con: Long distance friendships.
Skyping with your friends at 3 in the morning (when it's afternoon for them) is definitely not as nice as actually hanging out with them. You'll miss your friends and might feel like you're missing out on parties or get-togethers while you're away. Also, if you make any friends with the locals while you're there, having to go back home will be even more bittersweet.
11. Pro: Coming back home.
As fun and exciting as studying abroad is, there will be times where you will feel homesick. It's great to learn a new language and be in a new culture, but you will begin to miss home, where all your family and friends are, and at least where people speak the same language and everything is familiar.
12. Con: Coming back home.
But let's be honest, you're going to fall in love with wherever you studied and it will be super hard leaving at the end of the semester. Wherever you study will become your second home—after all, you're not a tourist but a "temporary resident." You will love being back home after being away for so long, but you will also miss being abroad. Also, the 10 hour flight back home will not be a pleasant journey.