Studying Abroad Is An Unforgettable Experience, But These 8 Struggles Make It Challenging

Studying Abroad Is An Unforgettable Experience, But These 8 Struggles Make It Challenging

It's not all just traveling the world!


Being able to study abroad is a once in a lifetime experience, that I would recommend to anyone. However, there are definitely some challenges that come with living in a foreign country without your friends or family for a semester.

1. Time change. 

Keeping in contact with friends and family is hard when you are so busy, but if you are in a country in a completely different time zone it makes it near impossible. When I wake up in the morning, everyone is in the middle of their sleep. When I go to bed, everyone's days are just beginning.

2. Having school work. 

It's very hard to be school-focused when you are concentrated on what country you will be flying to next weekend. Despite the fact that your classes will most likely be easier than at home, you still have to try and put some effort in.

3. Spending money.

Everything is so expensive. Some cities are more expensive than others but you will find yourself spending thousands of dollars over the course of the semester if you are travelling a lot. Make sure you budget for this.

4. Staying active. 

Sure, there are gyms in other countries, but finding the motivation to go everyday is a lot harder. You are in a completely new place and doing different things so making it to the gym probably won't be high on your to-do list.

5. Language barriers. 

This won't apply for every country, but I am studying in Italy and went with no knowledge of the Italian language. I am slowly learning but trying to get around takes a lot of pointing at things and google translate.

6. Different paces of life. 

The United States is a very unique place. Everyone is in a rush and does things as efficiently as possible. Most countries in Europe are not like this and it can be very frustrating. This takes a while to get used to.

7. Going out. 

At school, usually people go out some Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. In European countries (and particularly Italy), the big nights are Tuesday and Thursday, along with Friday and Saturday. It is exhausting.

8. Having FOMO. 

It hasn't been as bad as I expected, but it is sad seeing your friends at school doing things together when you can't be with them.

Despite these little negatives, it is still an experience everyone should have. These complaints of mine are nothing compared to all of the adventures you will have abroad!

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I Visited The "Shameless" Houses And Here's Why You Shouldn't

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.

After five hours of driving, hearing the GPS say "Turn right onto South Homan Avenue" was a blessing. My eyes peeled to the side of the road, viciously looking for what I have been driving so long for, when finally, I see it: the house from Shameless.

Shameless is a hit TV show produced by Showtime. It takes place in modern-day Southside, Chicago. The plot, while straying at times, largely revolves around the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. While a majority of the show is filmed offsite in a studio in Los Angeles, many outside scenes are filmed in Southside and the houses of the Gallagher's and side-characters are very much based on real houses.

We walked down the street, stopped in front of the two houses, took pictures and admired seeing the house in real life. It was a surreal experience and I felt out-of-place like I didn't belong there. As we prepared to leave (and see other spots from the show), a man came strolling down on his bicycle and asked how we were doing.

"Great! How are you?"

It fell silent as the man stopped in front of the Gallagher house, opened the gate, parked his bike and entered his home. We left a donation on his front porch, got back to the car and took off.

As we took the drive to downtown Chicago, something didn't sit right with me. While it was exciting to have this experience, I began to feel a sense of guilt or wrongdoing. After discussing it with my friends, I came to a sudden realization: No one should visit the "Gallagher" house.

The plot largely revolves the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. It represents what Southside is like for so many residents. While TV shows always dramatize reality, I realized coming to this house was an exploitation of their conditions. It's entertaining to see Frank's shenanigans on TV, the emotional roller coasters characters endure and the outlandish things they have to do to survive. I didn't come here to help better their conditions, immerse myself in what their reality is or even for the donation I left: I came here for my entertainment.

Southside, Chicago is notoriously dangerous. The thefts, murders and other crimes committed on the show are not a far-fetched fantasy for many of the residents, it's a brutal reality. It's a scary way to live. Besides the Milkovich home, all the houses typically seen by tourists are occupied by homeowners. It's not a corporation or a small museum -- it's their actual property. I don't know how many visitors these homes get per day, week, month or year. Still, these homeowners have to see frequent visitors at any hour of the day, interfering with their lives. In my view, coming to their homes and taking pictures of them is a silent way of glamorizing the cycle of poverty. It's a silent way of saying we find joy in their almost unlivable conditions.

The conceit of the show is not the issue. TV shows have a way of romanticizing very negative things all the time. The issue at hand is that several visitors are privileged enough to live in a higher quality of life.

I myself experienced the desire and excitement to see the houses. I came for the experience but left with a lesson. I understand that tourism will continue to the homes of these individuals and I am aware that my grievances may not be shared with everyone -- however, I think it's important to take a step back and think about if this were your life. Would you want hundreds, potentially thousands, of people coming to your house? Would you want people to find entertainment in your lifestyle, good and bad?

I understand the experience, excitement, and fun the trip can be. While I recommend skipping the houses altogether and just head downtown, it's most important to remember to be respectful to those very individuals whose lives have been affected so deeply by Shameless.

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