To The Girl Who Is Afraid To Study Abroad

To The Girl Who Is Afraid To Study Abroad

A new country, alone, is scary. But what good ever came from playing it safe?

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To the girl afraid to study abroad...

Don't be. Studying abroad is one of the most challenging, unique, and rewarding experiences of my college experience.

Was I afraid to embark on a six-month solo journey across the ocean? Yes. But I knew that in the long run that if I didn't do it, I would regret it. Filling out applications, buying expensive plane tickets, stressing over getting my Visa in time--the entire process was just short of a nightmare.

Yet, studying abroad gave me things I never would've gotten had I not done so.

Better Spanish skills.

Ability to problem solve.

Public transit system understanding in multiple cities.

Appreciation for luxuries I never considered luxuries.

Doing and seeing things I'd only ever heard about in a classroom.

Studying abroad is scary, at first. You'll get homesick and you'll miss American food. You'll miss the parts of your daily routine at home and you'll wish you had more money. You'll have to readjust to a new form of college life and find friends in an entirely new place.

So many people reach the end of their study abroad programs and can't wait to go home, but I was different. I loved so many things about my life in Spain but I had things back home that I missed as well. I found that readjusting to my home culture was harder than adjusting to Spanish culture. Now that I'm back home, studying at my American university and speaking only English on a regular basis, I miss Spain, I miss my European friends and my American friends from other states, I miss Spanish grocery store prices, I miss the Madrid Metro, I miss tinto de verano, I miss traveling to what felt like a whole new world for less than $100 (different countries feel like different worlds sometimes).

And I feel like that's something irreplaceable. Having another thing, another life, another culture, another time zone, another place to miss... especially when that thing is another home.

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10 Things You Will Learn During Your First Semester At College

Ramen for dinner... again...

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I am a freshman at Elon University in North Carolina and have just completed my first semester. It was a crazy couple of months, but I would not change them for the world. Below is a list of important lessons I have learned, and I hope that this helps incoming college students prepare for their next four years!

1.  You are never alone

Kate Tulenko

Seriously, never. Whether you are in class, in the dining hall, or hanging out in your room, you are always surrounded by people. Me being a people-person, I love the constant stimulation of people around me, and quite honestly, it was weird being alone in my room when I came home for breaks.

2.  Not spending money is hard

Giphy

Whether it's stopping at the local coffee shop or getting groceries, you will put a big hole in your spending account, so save up your summer job money while you still can!

3.  You'll find out who your real friends from home are

Kate Tulenko

Going to college is hard because all of your high school friends are all over the country. The people you called your best friends are now far, and only a few still keep in touch—These are the realest friends you could find.

4.  Your roommate will be your rock

Kate Tulenko

I was lucky enough to have a wonderful roommate this semester. We have been through a lot, and I am glad to have her in my life. Hopefully, you will be this lucky too (I'm not going to lie, some people are not as lucky) but try to make the best of the situation, whatever it ends up being. Your roommate will be there for you when you need them and will be there for every crazy story that happens, so get excited!

5.  There's no "Popular" group

Kate Tulenko

Sure, in high school there is that group of girls that seems to run the school and have everyone wrapped around their fingers. But in college it's different. There is no popular group—everyone just does their own thing and has a great time, and the best part is that no group judges another. Everyone is friends with everyone.

6.  Naps are IMPORTANT!

Kate Tulenko

I have said it once and I will say it again: College tired is a different kind of tired. And I think it's because you are always talking to people and doing things all day, and never really resting or doing nothing by yourself. It's honestly a blessing and a curse.

7.  Free food is a blessing

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PREACH! Whenever there is free food you know I'm there! You will get bored of dining hall food, so when you see a different type of food being offered on campus for free you should tap that.

8.  High School was nothing compared to college

Kate Tulenko

I love my high school friends and had a great time with them, yes, but nothing compares to the freedom and fun you have at college. You will have the best time because you can do whatever you want whenever you want—just remember that you are at college for the education, not the parties!

9.  Working out is a necessity

Kate Tulenko

It's no secret that your entire body changes when you get to college because of the change in diet and different daily schedule than what you are used to. So try to go to the gym or get some type of workout every day or so to stay in good shape. I was a swimmer, so one of my go-to workouts is to swim.

10.  Your new friends will be your new family

Kate Tulenko

You will form an unbreakable bond with your friends at college because you all are facing this new chapter in your life, and no one really knows what they are doing. You will figure out this path together, which is what brings everyone so close. Me and my new friends felt like a family not even two weeks into the semester, and now that bond is even stronger. I cannot wait to see what the next three years will be like with my new family by my side. So, get excited for college—I promise it's everything people hype it up to be!

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4 Ways To Be Present While Traveling

The intangible, yet most important, part of traveling.

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In the summer of 2017 I left the country for the first time. I spent two weeks on the island of Java in the country of Indonesia, and I fell in love with the new-ness of culture, people, language, and food in a way that I didn't previously believe was possible. I have fallen in love with every place I've visited so far, and each country and city has taught me something different. Each one has taught me to love a new location, to be okay with a new bed (if there is one), and to eat what's given to you (no matter how strange).

Don't get me wrong, I love where I live here in Missouri, I love being in a comfortable home, and I'm a picky eater, but the adrenaline rush of being in complete oblivion of a place unknown to me is so addicting. Since my trip to Indonesia I have also traveled to England, France, and Jordan. All are beautiful in their own way, and I don't have a favorite (please don't ask me to pick). My tips about immersion will all be based on my first trip – to Indonesia. These five tips on how to truly be present in a place you're traveling to are not about things you can buy, or tours you pay for, or even the luxury of places you stay, but instead are focused on the intangible things such as friendships, language, and change of the heart.

1. Stay a while.

No one is asking you to stay forever, but spend enough time in one place that you are able to make a friend. It could be the barista at the coffee shop you go to, or someone at the park, but at least a week is enough time to make this happen. One week will allow you to see the way the local people live, as well as give you time to see all that there is to see in your travel destination.
I stayed for two weeks in Indonesia, and volunteered at an English Center where I made friends that I will have for a lifetime. I was able to go on gelato dates with my new friends, and still have time to see a volcano, go on a float trip, and conquer my fear of heights (kind of) by jumping off of a 35-40 foot cliff into water. Anything is possible to explore if you stay long enough.

2. Find the little things.

This is when knowing local people comes in handy. Your new local friends will suggest the best places to eat, tour, take pictures of, and where the best local coffee shops are. Don't fall into the trap of your own imagination or the trap your own taste buds, step outside of yourself and live like a local.
On the island of Java there is bound to be great coffee (I mean…there has to be, right?) and some of the best coffee I found was actually in my hotel. None of the "chain" coffees came close to the taste of the tiny espresso-sized mugs of coffee I got at the hotel's breakfast.

3. It's not about you.

You're soaking in a new experience, not being your own experience. So many times I see travelers and friends leave the country expecting to change the world with their presence, but they're not letting their presence be changed by the world. When you travel to your next location, look for ways you can be educated about the place you're in, listen to your new friends and strangers, and find every excuse to spend the most time outside of your hotel room.

4. Rest.

You aren't going to remember your trip if your mind isn't rested enough to store more memories. Long flights and travel wear people out very quickly, and your excursions aren't going to be as exciting if you're not awake to remember them. However, if you need to adjust to a large time difference, don't go to bed until 8 pm the first day that you're there. That will allow your body to readjust to the time zone quicker so you'll be more rested for the days ahead.

Wherever you're going, I hope you learn the most you can and that you immerse yourself into a beautiful culture. Even if you don't understand it at first, allow yourself to be open to differences. Stop comparing your destination to "what's back home" and just let yourself be! Travel is meant to be an addition to your cultural portfolio, not a comparison. I hope these tips help you to have a better understanding of how to venture into a new culture. Have a great trip!

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