Studying abroad is quite an overwhelming experience to say the least. While the months leading up to departure may be full of excitement and anticipation, the days before may be stressful and emotionally taxing. It's completely normal to feel like you're riding a wave of drastic highs and lows. It's completely normal because nothing truly prepares you for leaving the comforts of home. However, not everybody gets the chance to study abroad. The experience is not something to be taken for granted. Although it's difficult to put into words, as everyone's abroad experience various, here are five general things every abroad student probably can agree on:
1. Life will not always go as planned.
As cliche as it sounds, sometimes the best things happen when we least expect them. Sometimes, you will get lost trying to find a specific restaurant you had your mind set on, but you'll discover your new favorite cafe in the process. Sometimes, you will miss your flight, only to realize that some of the funniest moments happened while you were waiting for the next one. Sometimes, you may become friends with people you least expected to. Your time abroad is meant to shape you as a person; how would that be possible without going outside of your comfort zone?
2. You will get homesick at some point.
To be homesick in such a breathtaking place may seem like a crime, but you'e only human. When and if it happens, whether in small waves or drowning tsunamis, don't try to fight it. Hang some pictures from home up in your room, write old fashioned letters, FaceTime your mom and your dog.
3. You will spend a lot of money, but it's worth it.
If you haven't made a budget sheet already, I would strongly suggest doing so. Even if you don't stick to it exactly, even having a rough idea of the amount you can spend weekly or daily can help. You may be tempted to go on shopping sprees, as you will be surrounded by chic, hip European shops that cannot be found anywhere back in the States. While it's OK to splurge every once in a while, as long as you are aware of your budget, you'll probably want to spend your money on experiences, not materialistic items.
4. It's OK to do your own thing.
You, most likely, will not have the same exact schedule as all of your best friends abroad. While it may be terrifying to travel with different people, or even alone, some of your best memories may come out of these trips. Additionally, you should never feel pressured to visit museums, try certain foods, or take a trip to a specific city or country if you do not have an interest in doing so.
5. The experience goes by quicker than you think.
One day, your study abroad experience will be a mere memory. Make sure it's a good one. Take a copious number of pictures for yourself, for this is the only way you will truly remember the details of everything. Keep a journal, even if writing is the last thing you want to do at the end of a long travel day, you'll look back and be more than grateful. Treasure every moment, meal, and trip you take. Everyone will tell you that it flies by, and you won't believe them until you blink and realize your program is halfway over.