College is a time of firsts. It’s a time to learn more about yourself and what you’re capable of, and what better way to do that than study abroad.
Study abroad expands your world. For most people when they study abroad they quickly realize that the world they left behind is not the one they’re in now, and that’s not a bad thing. Study abroad, no matter how the experience turns out, changes you. Here are some things that happen to you when you decide to venture beyond your door, interspersed with my personal experiences.
1. Tissue will be on hand at all times
You will cry and that’s ok, it happens to everyone. It might happen before you leave or halfway through the semester due to stress or culture shock but most likely alcohol. It will definitely happen when you leave and you realize that you’re going home and all the amazing people, places, and things can’t come with you. So be prepared.
I personally cried before I left, then I got to my destination and realized that I wasted some tears. I cried again halfway through the semester due to a panic attack. And I shed some tears when all my friends left.
2. Broke isn't just a noun, it's a lifestyle
You will be broke. All those weekend trips and extra shots made for some great memories but they also left you penniless. Speaking from experience, it’s worth it. But maybe plan ahead and bring some extra cash, depending on what part of the world you’re studying abroad in.
I arrived home with $50 in my bank account, a 20 in my wallet and a credit card bill a couple hundred dollars long. Thankfully, I went right back to work, but being broke while I was abroad taught me what items on my shopping list were a necessity and what wasn’t. Let’s just say it’s a good thing alcohol is cheap in Europe. #blessed
3. Food, glorious foreign food
You will encounter food that you never thought you’d try before and it will be delicious. When you get home you’ll attempt to recreate all the morsels that passed through your mouth. It is a futile attempt when you realize that no one can make anything as delicious as the attractive bartender who winked at you when he handed you your sandwich.
I had the most amazing food while I studied abroad. The most delicious food was in San Sebastian, Spain. I ate stuffed rabbit liver, blood sausage and stuffed olives. Not everything I ate sounded appealing, but it was all mind blowing if not stomach altering.
4. Inner confidence will outwardly show
You will find this confidence inside you and it’ll change everything. Suddenly exploring a new city doesn’t seem as terrifying. Attempting to converse with someone in a foreign tongue becomes second nature. And you might climb up on a speaker to dance, because why not.
When I began my study abroad journey, I was confident in who I was, I wasn’t so confident in my navigational abilities among others. Now I can say I am a master at airports and metros systems. I’m still terrible at reading at maps, but I can get to my destination. Being able to navigate around a new city and communicate is a huge confidence booster, it’s part of the reason I climbed on top of that speaker in the first place.
5. The Traveler's sickness aka the Adventure Bug
Once you start traveling you will not want to stop. Any trip not taken is a missed opportunity in your mind. This one might be the most obvious out of the entire list. To travel is to free yourself and lose your inhibitions; it’s essentially an adrenaline rush, one that you’ll never want to end.
I loved traveling before and now I’m always looking for any chance to fit an adventure into my schedule. Studying abroad gave me the chance to expand my boundaries beyond the city I grew up in and go to college in.
Studying abroad changes you, one way or another you will be a different person when you return home. I guarantee when you look back at your time spent wandering the streets of a foreign city you’ll realize that all those time you were lost or broke or testing your taste buds you learned a lesson about yourself, about a different culture and most importantly about the life you left behind. So to all those studying abroad, enjoy yourselves and if you need a friend, take me with you!