5 Things I've Learned After Studying Abroad

5 Things I've Learned After Studying Abroad

I'm ready to go home, but not ready to leave.
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Three months ago, I was packing to study abroad. I had no idea what to expect, yet simultaneously had a million expectations. I was going to see all of Europe, travel constantly, meet tons of new people, and jump out of my comfort zone. I'm not a partier by any means, but I was determined to fully experience everything possible. After all, study abroad is the opportunity to become a totally new person.

Some of my preconceived ideas were true. I have traveled, met lots of amazing people, and certainly got out of my comfort zone. But some of my ideas were disproved. So after three months in Europe, here's what I've learned:

1. It's not so different.

England has been very similar to home in a lot of ways. There's KFC, college students wear leggings constantly, and Netflix is just the same. Within all of that, it's easy to forget that I'm abroad until I get off campus and into the city. It's surprised me how quickly I adjusted, and how quickly this place has felt like home. And then suddenly I'll be on a train, passing fields of sheep with the ruins of an ancient tower in the middle, and it'll hit me that we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto. Travelling is weird like that: you can adjust to almost anything, but some things will always surprise you.

2. You still have to study.

This might seem obvious. After all, it's study abroad. Especially in England, however, it's been difficult to stay focused. I haven't had any graded assignments yet, and my final papers are 100% of my final grades, so it's dangerously easy to slack off. On the one hand, this situation is great: I can travel on weekends and not worry about a quiz on Tuesday or a paper on Friday. Take advantage of your free time, but don't forget that it'll all come down to that final paper. And pro tip: your professors know if you've put in the effort.

3. You need less than you think you do.

Travel light. Please, God, travel light. It's so easy to rationalize those four sweaters and two pairs of jeans and a spare pair of shoes, but trust me, you'll be happier with just a backpack. For a three-day trip, I ended up taking one pair of leggings, two t-shirts, a sweater, and the clothes on my back. Wear your bulkiest clothes on the plane, and always leave room for gifts and souvenirs. Trust me: you'll buy them.

4. Things are expensive.

Admittedly, this is the same at home. But when you're in a new country, you're going to want to go into town, go to dinner, buy the macaroons from that bakery. I'm all for treating yourself: this is a once in a lifetime experience, and you have to take advantage of it while you're here. But prepare beforehand. Work hard, save up, and be careful once you're abroad. You don't need those chicken nuggets, but you're going to want the coffee at the sidewalk cafe in Paris.

5. You'll be ready to go home, but not ready to leave.

I don't know how to explain this feeling. With the holidays approaching, I'm excited to go home, curl up with my family, and enjoy my mom's pumpkin bread. But on the other hand, I can't believe I have less than two weeks left in my time here. After years spent planning and dreaming of studying abroad, the experience is almost over, and I'm certainly not ready for that. I've come to the realization that there will always be more things to do and more places to see. I could spend my entire life in Europe and still have more to experience. But I've done everything I wanted to in my limited time here, so it's time to go home.


Studying abroad is one of the greatest things you can experience. Getting out of your comfort zone can be scary, but at the end of your trip you'll be a new person. I don't want to leave, but I'm going back home with new ideas, new outlooks, and a new sense of just how huge the world is.

Cover Image Credit: Pexel

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Your Wait time At Theme Parks Is Not Unfair, You're Just Impatient

Your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself.

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Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios "unboxed" on June 30, 2018. My friend and I decided to brave the crowds on opening day. We got to the park around 7 AM only to find out that the park opened around 6 AM. Upon some more scrolling through multiple Disney Annual Passholder Facebook groups, we discovered that people were waiting outside the park as early as 1 AM.

We knew we'd be waiting in line for the bulk of the Toy Story Land unboxing day. There were four main lines in the new land: the line to enter the land; the line for Slinky Dog Dash, the new roller coaster; the line for Alien Spinning Saucers, the easier of the new rides in the land; Toy Story Mania, the (now old news) arcade-type ride; and the new quick-service restaurant, Woody's Lunchbox (complete with grilled cheese and "grown-up drinks").

Because we were so early, we did not have to wait in line to get into the land. We decided to ride Alien Spinning Saucers first. The posted wait time was 150 minutes, but my friend timed the line and we only waited for 50 minutes. Next, we tried to find the line for Slinky Dog Dash. After receiving conflicting answers, the runaround, and even an, "I don't know, good luck," from multiple Cast Members, we exited the land to find the beginning of the Slinky line. We were then told that there was only one line to enter the park that eventually broke off into the Slinky line. We were not about to wait to get back into the area we just left, so we got a Fastpass for Toy Story Mania that we didn't plan on using in order to be let into the land sooner. We still had to wait for our time, so we decided to get the exclusive Little Green Man alien popcorn bin—this took an entire hour. We then used our Fastpass to enter the land, found the Slinky line, and proceeded to wait for two and a half hours only for the ride to shut down due to rain. But we've come this far and rain was not about to stop us. We waited an hour, still in line and under a covered area, for the rain to stop. Then, we waited another hour and a half to get on the ride from there once it reopened (mainly because they prioritized people who missed their Fastpass time due to the rain). After that, we used the mobile order feature on the My Disney Experience app to skip part of the line at Woody's Lunchbox.

Did you know that there is actually a psychological science to waiting? In the hospitality industry, this science is the difference between "perceived wait" and "actual wait." A perceived wait is how long you feel like you are waiting, while the actual wait is, of course, the real and factual time you wait. There are eight things that affect the perceived wait time: unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time, pre-process waits feel longer than in-process waits, anxiety makes waits feel longer, uncertain waits are longer than certain waits, unexplained waits are longer than explained waits, unfair waits are longer than equitable waits, people will wait longer for more valuable service and solo waiting feels longer than group waiting.

Our perceived wait time for Alien Spinning Saucers was short because we expected it to be longer. Our wait for the popcorn seemed longer because it was unoccupied and unexplained. Our wait for the rain to stop so the ride could reopen seemed shorter because it was explained. Our wait between the ride reopening and getting on the coaster seemed longer because it felt unfair for Disney to let so many Fastpass holders through while more people waited through the rain. Our entire wait for Slinky Dog Dash seemed longer because we were not told the wait time in the beginning. Our wait for our food after placing a mobile order seemed shorter because it was an in-process wait. We also didn't mind wait long wait times for any of these experiences because they were new and we placed more value on them than other rides or restaurants at Disney. The people who arrived at 1 AM just added five hours to their perceived wait

Some non-theme park examples of this science of waiting in the hospitality industry would be waiting at a restaurant, movie theater, hotel, performance or even grocery store. When I went to see "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," the power went out in the theater right as we arrived. Not only did we have to wait for it to come back and for them to reset the projectors, I had to wait in a bit of anxiety because the power outage spooked me. It was only a 30-minute wait but felt so much longer. At the quick-service restaurant where I work, we track the time from when the guest places their order to the time they receive their food. Guests in the drive-thru will complain about 10 or more minute waits, when our screens tell us they have only been waiting four or five minutes. Their actual wait was the four or five minutes that we track because this is when they first request our service, but their perceived wait begins the moment they pull into the parking lot and join the line because this is when they begin interacting with our business. While in line, they are experiencing pre-process wait times; after placing the order, they experience in-process wait times.

Establishments in the hospitality industry do what they can to cut down on guests' wait times. For example, theme parks offer services like Disney's Fastpass or Universal's Express pass in order to cut down the time waiting in lines so guests have more time to buy food and merchandise. Stores like Target or Wal-Mart offer self-checkout to give guests that in-process wait time. Movie theaters allow you to check in and get tickets on a mobile app and some quick-service restaurants let you place mobile or online orders. So why do people still get so bent out of shape about being forced to wait?

On Toy Story Land unboxing day, I witnessed a woman make a small scene about being forced to wait to exit the new land. Cast Members were regulating the flow of traffic in and out of the land due to the large crowd and the line that was in place to enter the land. Those exiting the land needed to wait while those entering moved forward from the line. Looking from the outside of the situation as I was, this all makes sense. However, the woman I saw may have felt that her wait was unfair or unexplained. She switched between her hands on her hips and her arms crossed, communicated with her body language that she was not happy. Her face was in a nasty scowl at those entering the land and the Cast Members in the area. She kept shaking her head at those in her group and when allowed to proceed out of the land, I could tell she was making snide comments about the wait.

At work, we sometimes run a double drive-thru in which team members with iPads will take orders outside and a sequencer will direct cars so that they stay in the correct order moving toward the window. In my experience as the sequencer, I will inform the drivers which car to follow, they will acknowledge me and then still proceed to dart in front of other cars just so they make it to the window maybe a whole minute sooner. Not only is this rude, but it puts this car and the cars around them at risk of receiving the wrong food because they are now out of order. We catch these instances more often than not, but it still adds stress and makes the other guests upset. Perhaps these guests feel like their wait is also unfair or unexplained, but if they look at the situation from the outside or from the restaurant's perspective, they would understand why they need to follow the blue Toyota.

The truth of the matter is that your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself. We all want instant gratification, I get it. But in reality, we have to wait for some things. It takes time to prepare a meal. It takes time to experience a ride at a theme park that everyone else wants to go on. It takes time to ring up groceries. It takes patience to live in this world.

So next time you find yourself waiting, take a minute to remember the difference between perceived and actual wait times. Think about the eight aspects of waiting that affect your perceived wait. Do what you can to realize why you are waiting or keep yourself occupied in this wait. Don't be impatient. That's no way to live your life.

Cover Image Credit:

Aranxa Esteve

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Yep, Another Post About An American Girl Reflecting On Her Time and Studies Abroad

Seriously, again?

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I don't know exactly what I did to deserve it, but I recently became part of a highly misunderstood, marginalized, and dare I say, stigmatized community. Quite frankly, I think it's completely unfair.

What did my fellow basic globe-trotters and I do to deserve such judgment? It's not as if the majority of our parents had a large part in allowing our travels to happen. It's not as if my parents fully supported me financially after I blew through my waitressing savings as if my ATM card was invincible in the first month of being away.

Some people simply don't realize, gallivanting around Europe (or any other far-flung continent) is seriously strenuous work.

I felt especially misunderstood while I drank from my bottle—I mean "glass"—of French wine (sorry, Mom and Dad) under the Eiffel Tower, or while I ate Dutch pancakes on the canals of Amsterdam, or while I gazed wistfully over the city of Barcelona from Bunkers, or while I lounged in the thermal baths of Budapest. Don't even get me started on the pangs of judgement I felt while I enjoyed a pint of Guinness from my favorite Irish Pub in Ireland, or while I sipped tea at a fancy afternoon tearoom in London, or when I danced on the tables at Spring Fest in Munich with all of my friends. You get the picture.

Needless to say, spending a semester abroad was super hard work!

People who make assumptions and judgments tend to forget we went abroad to study. Perhaps one of my most stressful assignments involved lounging in the local park in Dublin and observing the difference in culture. My workload was tough to manage. True story! Yet the judge-y, not-travelled-abroad-to-study Twitter community often fails to recognize the genuine hardships that we studying-abroad students had to endure during our time away and continues to have loads of fun putting us down. Some of these judgmental people really made me feel personally victimized. See below:Me: wow this sandwich is great. Person who studied abroad in Europe 30 years ago: not as great as the one I had in Barthelona


Funny, Girl, and Monkey: Tori Harkin @tori _harkin Why this monkey look like every girl know studying abroad Get it gurl🙌🏻😍

Seriously, I did the same freakin' pose as the monkey. Partly because I was feeling the glamour of the moment, but mostly because I was in freakin' Spain for Christmas sakes! Sheesh.

It may have appeared effortless, but I personally worked very hard on posing for pictures in front of the most monumental landmarks of the countries where I visited, not to mention the incredible thoughtfulness I put into each and every one of my Instagram captions, too. I would greatly appreciate if the mean-spirited Twitter community would stop kicking a girl while she's already down. It was a tough few months.

Honestly, maybe poking fun at the life-changing experiences I had in Europe is rooted in my desire to troll the trolls who like to blather on Twitter.

Or maybe, just maybe, it's a coping mechanism to not avoid dealing with the fact that I am no longer like the super-glamorous monkey posing on an elevated surface in Barcelona. Maybe, just maybe, that's why my editor gave me a kick in the butt and told me to write an article about my overseas experiences, because my lack of submissions was due to the fact that I couldn't find the words to say about what I learned, saw, ate, drank and did in Europe.

Because in reality, I still haven't fully acknowledged the fact that I'm back. I haven't allowed myself to be sad about leaving. I haven't allowed myself to talk about the fact that for the first time in my life, I was cherishing every moment I had abroad, living in the present, knowing the inevitable expiration date and never wanting it to approach. And now that said expiration date has come and passed, I haven't allowed myself to reflect on my experiences. How every person I met, every place I visited and every little moment that I may never get back have fully changed my perspective on life, and completely changed me as a person.

And if I do decide to fully delve into that suppressed pool of emotion lurking deep in my subconscious, someone needs to run me to the nearest therapist.

I'll probably never transcend the stigmatized community of people who've travelled abroad and fully identified with every stereotype and misunderstanding meme that every Internet troll has thrust upon us. Maybe I will start too many sentences with, "When I was in Europe …" Maybe I'll be one of the brave ones who decides to move back to Europe after graduation (not that I've already started job hunting in London or anything.) In the final analysis, I wouldn't change a thing about my experiences abroad. Finding the perfect words to say anything beyond that is nearly impossible. So, if you get the chance to study abroad and join me and the monkey on the wall of cringe-worthy posed-poses on every elevated surface in every gorgeous monumental landmark in Europe (or anywhere else overseas), by all means, join us in this adverse-filled, misunderstood community. It's the best decision you'll ever make.
Cover Image Credit:

Alexa Campbell

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