Studying abroad is not as glamorous as it sounds. When you hear that someone is studying abroad, you picture them living their best lives in a foreign land with exotic food. Well, let me tell you that studying abroad is not as incredible as it sounds. Leaving your home country, family and friends behind is not easy at all. I have been studying abroad in the United States for two years now and there were plenty of struggles that I had to face right before I even left my home country, India. Stuffing one year's worth of clothes and supplies into two suitcases was a struggle. Waving goodbye to my family and friends was the hardest thing I had to do.
Once I landed, I loved everything in the United States. Meeting new people, trying new food, going to classes, and living on campus was all very exciting. This honeymoon phase lasted for a few months until I slowly started getting fed up of everything. I got tired and sick of eating the same food from the dining halls again and again. My taste buds craved for some good Indian food. But I stopped myself from purchasing any Indian food because everything in the United States is so expensive, especially for someone who earns in rupees and spends in dollars (one dollar equals seventy rupees).
My jaw dropped on the floor when I looked at the prices of my course textbooks. Who pays seven thousand rupees for a textbook that they are going to use for one semester? I could not understand why textbooks were so expensive and still don't. Every time I want to buy something, I convert the amount into rupees and then I realize that it is not affordable at all. So I end up buying nothing. Talking about money, I still do not know how to use American coins. I have no idea how a penny is different from a nickel. Someone could give me half the amount of change they owe me and I wouldn't even know (thank god for credit cards).
Not just purchasing things, but traveling is expensive too! Living in New Jersey without a car is terrible because there's no public transport. The trains don't go everywhere and even if they do, it takes forever. I have to pay $14 (980 rupees) to travel 36 miles by train, whereas if I was in India, I would only be paying less than a dollar for the same distance! Ubering everywhere is not an option when you are not rich.
Other than this, I always felt like I did not fit in with others. I was always the "international student from India" in every class. While there were so many American pop culture references that professors and students would make in class that I would understand, there were some I didn't. I constantly felt foreign, and that I did not belong. I felt like I couldn't connect with anyone at all. But I soon realized that I was not alone and that there were others who felt the same way too. I made many international friends from other countries and we connected instantly because we could relate to each other's experiences. I met so many Americans as well who were so fascinated to know about my experience and the Indian culture and I was more than happy to tell them all about it!
Despite all the struggles, I'm very grateful that I have the opportunity to study abroad and I try to make the most of it. Studying abroad has changed me in many ways and has made me stronger. Although there are times when I feel homesick, I remind myself of how lucky I am to have this opportunity.