What People Don't Tell You About Studying Abroad

What People Don't Tell You About Studying Abroad

You gotta be prepared about the things that actually happen.

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Studying abroad is a dream for a lot of college students. From spending endless days at the beach to visiting somewhere new every week, studying in another country has become romanticized to the point where some people end up experiencing a major shock when they arrive at the country of study of their choice. After a month of living abroad in Paris, here are some tips and realistic reflections on how it has been.

What people post on Instagram is a quaint little Parisian studio looking like it came straight out of a movie, with cobblestone roads and Beauty and the Beast style windows. What they don't see are the problems that come with a hundred-year-old studio - from water leaks to thin walls to inefficient energy consumption, studios that allow for such aesthetic pictures comes at a great price.

Honestly, the novelty of being in a new city and a new place will probably outweigh these problems, but it's important to be prepared when these things do happen. But if you don't speak the language of the country, it can be very hard to solve problems like these that arise. Not only are there language barriers, but stores and services in each country are also open to different times. In Paris, if there's a problem with a water leak on a Saturday night, don't expect to be able to find a plumber until at least mid-day Monday.

Before arriving in a new country, you may also have pre-existing preconceptions about the area. You may have prepared yourself in advance, determining that the generally rude people an aversion to English speakers would never bother you. But when you're fully immersed in the city, exposed to the judgments and non-stop streams of French, your brain could quickly burn out. Make sure to give yourself some alone time every few days when you're in a foreign country because your brain will need that time to recharge and reflect. If you don't, it is very easy to burn out.

It takes time to get used to a new city, and it takes time to start to understand a new place. You may feel frustrated in the first few weeks or even months, but when you finally settle into the pace of the city, it will truly become a rewarding experience. Sometimes you just want to fly home and go back to late night taco runs, boba shops, and big brunches, but you will learn to appreciate the country you're studying in for what it offers. There's no need to fly to a new extravagant location every weekend to enjoy the study abroad experience. That daily walk to the bakery across the street will become one of the most memorable parts of your experience, and you'll never forget the times when you almost got lost in the city with your new friends.

Study abroad if you can - you'll grow so much as a person and expose yourself to just how diverse this world is.

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

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.
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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.

Cover Image Credit: itsfilmedthere.com

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