As my study abroad experience comes to an end, I realize that just about everything I have written has highlighted the most positive parts of my time. Like just about anything else, there are highs and lows that only make you appreciate the good that much more. I wish I had asked more questions to students before I had gone abroad, but I just didn't know exactly what to ask. Here are 19 things no one told me about going abroad, and, frankly, some that people just don't share.
1. You will be tired.
I can't remember the last time I got 8 hours of sleep. If you are anything like me, you will feel compelled to be involved in something every waking moment of the day. I can't complain, but will definitely be hibernating over winter break.
2. You will be homesick.
It may not come right away. You will probably be overwhelmed with excitement the first week or maybe month of studying abroad. But the day will come when you lay down to go to bed and think "Damn. Maybe going home won't be so bad." For me this happened on my birthday. Receiving texts from all my closest friends gave me a serious case of FOMO.
3. Your fluency in your native language may deteriorate.
Though I'm pretty proud of how much my Spanish has improved, I have to admit my English has become a little bit worse. But don't let that scare you from reading the rest of this post.
4. You'll feel lonely from time to time.
There will be moments when the saying "It's not where you are, it's who you're with" will come into play. Sometimes you'll just wish your family or closest friends could be experiencing some of the best days of your life with you.
5. You will become quick friends with all the people in your program.
Regarding the last point, that's not to say you won't make friends abroad. Just like freshman year, you will make friends with the people around you very, very quickly. Be prepared to be with them a lot especially in the beginning!
6. You'll likely know all the conversion rates of the countries you're traveling to by heart.
Euro to USD? Yeah I know that. USD to Moroccan Dirham? Easy.
7. You can't possibly go out every night.
For the first two weeks of studying abroad, we decided it would be a good idea to go to a bar or club every single night. Though it was a great way to meet everyone, it became tiring very quickly and we soon learned that it's not possible to say yes to every event in town- especially in Madrid, when there is some party that lasts until 6 AM every night.
8. You also can go out every night.
If you're looking to do something fun, I can guarantee there will be something going on. But choose wisely and don't make going out a priority, but friends.
9. People will stare at you the second you signal that you are not a local.
I crossed the road when the stoplight was red and someone yelled "Americana!!!" at me.
10. Your perspective of the world will be completely transformed by the time you return.
You will be exposed to people and places you are completely unfamiliar with and they will change your life for the better. I promise you that.
11. It's not all fun and games.
There's a little studying involved. Probably just the week of finals. Maybe midterms too if you're unlucky like me.
12. You won't get to everything on your bucket list.
It's a shame you don't have time to reach every city, but in the end you have to remember that you did the best you can and, upon departure, you have lots of cool trips to look forward to.
13. Things are way more expensive than you can imagine.
If you go to London or Switzerland, you'll know what I'm talking about. Remember to budget appropriately so you can travel comfortably in the more expensive places!
14. Everyone does the same 5 things in every popular tourist city.
So you're in Amsterdam… you took a picture on the huge "AMSTERDAM" sign. Maybe you get to London… odds are you see Big Ben and the London Eye. Or you venture all the way to Budapest… make sure to have a good friend to take a picture of you in the baths! Be original. Get off the beaten path and try something not everyone has experienced.
15. You'll pick up strange habits according to the country you are living in.
Refer to https://www.theodysseyonline.com/strangesthabitsihavepickeduplivinginspain
16. Wandering alone in a new city the first few times is unsettling.
If you aren't fluent in the language, it's scary to speak to new people. You may not have WiFi or cell service at all times and you'll be left to rely on yourself.
17. Traveling alone can be terrifying.
Hostels will freak you out when you're alone and you'll want to crawl into your bed and not see the world outside. But trust me, exploring around is the best thing you can do for yourself.
18. You'll gain a sense of direction very quickly.
Before I came to Europe, I could barely navigate my way across Villanova (not really, but you get the point). Here in Spain I have become much quicker with memorizing routes and understanding the layout of cities. As you will be spending a lot of time on your own, whether it is to walk to class or explore a new part of the city, you'll need to become independent and learn to map things out on your own.
19. You'll never want to leave.
I can't say I have met anyone who hated their study abroad experience. Sure there are ups and downs to everyone's story, but once it comes to an end, you'll be wishing you were back. Enjoy your time and make the most out of even the smallest things. When it's over, realize how fortunate you are to have this opportunity of a lifetime.