Study abroad is often depicted as this amazing time of endless fun. Especially because of social media, and the immense impact it has on people these days (and on millennials especially), I feel like study abroad is painted as this fantasy land where nothing can ever go wrong, and nothing bad can ever happen to you, and to some extent, I fed into this thinking. Before going abroad, I had a weird mix of emotions, and no major expectations, but I did expect studying abroad to be a breeze in the sense that it would allow me to escape from all of my problems.
I had been living in an oblivious, study abroad bliss for just about the entire two months that I'd been in Chile. I had met so many new friends, tried new foods, travelled a little around the country and beyond, and gained a whole ton of new experiences that I honestly couldn’t remember a time when I felt so happy. I not only felt happy but also just so blessed that I was fortunate enough to learn and grow in a country I had known next to nothing about, but was somehow falling in love with more and more each day. I had even received not one but two major financial blessings, one that lifted a major financial burden while abroad, and also funded me to complete research that the true nerd in me had been dying to conduct this upcoming summer. Besides the regular fits of FOMO that I get no matter where I am, I was never desperately homesick, and I felt so comfortable and confident roaming the streets of Santiago like they were my own. So many good things were happening to me, and I genuinely felt happy, but at some point, something happened and life wasn’t going exactly how I had wanted it to be. It was one of those moments where something happens, and you get extremely sad and upset, and it takes you a moment to realize the real reasons behind all your sudden pain and unhappiness. I won’t go into detail about what those things are or how they affect me in certain ways, but all of a sudden I realized that study abroad could not be an escape from all my problems. No matter how many how late nights I stayed out turning up, or how many cool Snapchats I took, all of those problems would still be there with me at the end of the day. There was no escaping them, and the only option was to finally take the time to deal with them.
I wanted to write this because even though I’m in way higher spirits now, that moment of realization did put me in a major funk for about two weeks, but ultimately forced me to do some serious self-reflection. I feel like more people should know that no matter how fun studying abroad is, or how amazing it is to explore new countries and meet new people, all of your problems aren’t just going to magically disappear as soon as you hop on the plane. Trying to immerse yourself in a new culture and adapt to a new way of life for a few months is indeed beneficial for growth and self-discovery, but I don’t believe it gives you any excuse ignore your inner demons by burying yourself in the pursuit of the ‘perfect study abroad experience.’ Those issues will still be with you at the end of the day, and no study abroad experience will ever be able to change that.
Obviously no one ever likes feeling sad or down, but I am honestly grateful for this difficult time I experienced abroad because it truly gave me the sentiment that I wasn’t just studying in this country, but I was actually living an unfiltered, authentic life and everything that comes with it. I’m also especially blessed that with being abroad, I’ve been given the time and physical space from a lot of stressful things I have to deal with in the states to work on myself, and reflect on certain issues in a way that truly allows me to reflect, pray, and focus on myself and no one else. I have absolutely loved living in Santiago, but I think the fact that I wasn’t always having the most amazing time these past three months has made this experience all the more special and real. Studying abroad isn’t always sugarcoated and perfect, and if you’re not always having the time of your life, it’s honestly ok.