Study Abroad: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

| November 9, 2017 | 0 Comments

During your time at your university, you may find yourself contemplating studying abroad. I must admit, the idea of immersing yourself in a new culture, trying new foods, and meeting people from a different side of the globe has quite the appeal, hence why I chose to study abroad myself this semester. I wanted to give all of those contemplating doing the same the real low-down from my experience so far, the dreamy parts and the not-so dreamy parts, the full package.

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The Good
Never having travelled to Europe, I am constantly fascinated by every new place I discover. Any trip out is really like its own mini-adventure, and the awe doesn’t fade away as quickly as you’d think it would. Now, I have been told that I view life through rose-colored glasses (which I actually bought at a local pop-up market in London today so I am truly sticking to my personal brand here), but it is an unparalleled experience to be fully immersed in a new place an ocean away for four months.

You get to embark on this new journey with a bunch of new faces, from your university and from others. Some may be people you recognize from school hallways or brief interactions while waiting for your bagels at Einstein’s. Some may be your close friends. Some may be entirely new to you. Regardless of which category they may fall into, you are all brought together by the fact that you are all very far from home and the familiarity that comes with it, and that, in turn, creates space for common ground (shoutout to Howard Thurman).

Studying abroad is like no vacation you have ever been on. It’s different when you are in a place for such an extended period of time and get the opportunity to be a part of where you are staying. You start to notice a bit of the quirks of the locals, become a regular at a local coffee shop, and begin to get a grip on navigating the public transportation system (emphasis on begin). You will leave your study abroad experience feeling as if you were really a part of that city, and if you’re lucky, you will get to take home more than just a couple of tacky tourist trap souvenirs for yourself and loved ones, and will come back with some new friendships, fond memories, and many pictures (for the ‘gram but also for when you’re feeling nostalgic).

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The Bad
Studying abroad is expensive. Not the program costs themselves, as they can sometimes be actually cheaper than paying tuition, room, and board at your university, but the additional costs that come with exploring, eating, and simply existing. Exploring the world costs money. If you are like me and you are used to working and having a consistent paycheck to rely on for personal expenses, it is quite a shock to the system to no longer have a steady influx of money and to have a very real, set end amount to your funds.

This may not be a problem for every student, but for less financially privileged students, it can be a stressor that remains in the back of your mind during your time abroad, especially after having to pay any unforeseen expenses (ie. pricey cab home from a night out, overly-priced drinks, or replacement of lost or damaged items). You may feel limited in the opportunities that you can take advantage of while you are there, especially in the places you can travel to outside of where you will be staying. It can be hard watching others go on extravagant trips every weekend while you are budgeting if you’ll have enough money for all of your groceries during your time there.

This is especially difficult when you are navigating this experience with people who come from different socioeconomic backgrounds than you, who can afford to spend a little more on meals, drinks, trips, etc. It’s never going to be easy to have to pop in with the reality check that you cannot afford all of the same luxuries as they can when you’re making plans. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, it sucks to feel like a party pooper, but it is necessary to do this in order to keep your expenses in check. If you have a more financially privileged background, I urge you to remember to be conscious of this difference when making plans with friends while abroad (and all of the time really) and to not make others feel bad for having to opt out of your pricey plans. It’s not personal, it’s just not financially feasible.

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The Ugly
As fun as it is to be so far from home in a new country with new (possibly more liberating) rules, it can still be difficult to be an ocean away from home. Whether you define home as your family home or as the community and network of friends you have created at your university, they are both oftentimes far, far away from where you are staying for four months. Making new friends can be exciting, but it does not replace the familiarity that comes with those that you are very close with that are no longer so easily accessible to you. Even reaching out through video chat can be difficult if you have drastically different timezones.

You may also be experiencing culture shock (shoutout to our set), as you adjust to the differences between your study abroad country and your home country, and try to navigate them. It may feel strange to stand out a bit when you go exploring, and you may even be treated differently for being from another country (I have learned that a lot of the world is not the biggest fan of Americans). The teaching style may even be different and you may find yourself struggling to adapt to it. You might not be making friends as swiftly as you thought you would, or feeling like you don’t really click with any of the people who you have met, leaving you feeling lonely in this new place.

This can all be difficult to process and is emotionally strenuous. This can lead to the development of mental health issues. This may be a pre-existing condition that may have gotten worse under the given circumstances, or it may be something new to you altogether. Either way, it is important to remember to reach out for help. Your university may have easy access to counseling services for students. They want you to enjoy this experience, and it can be difficult to do that when dealing with internal turmoil that may feel like too much for one person to handle. It is a good idea to take advantage of this opportunity and to make sure that you are taking care of yourself amidst all of the fun and newness.

Processed with VSCO with g3 presetThe Final Verdict
As a whole, I think that studying abroad is an incredible experience that I would recommend taking advantage of. You may never again get the opportunity to spend such an extended period of time immersing yourself somewhere new and different. It is important to step out of your comfort zone in life in order to grow. The things you learn while abroad extend past the classroom or your internship; you are learning new things every day simply by existing in an environment that is different than what you are used to. I for one, support the challenge, even with the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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Category: featured, Food and Travel, HTC Abroad, Reflections

Virginia Roa

About the Author ()

Salty and brown. Mildly afraid of butterflies. Lover of fashion, books, and the power of words.

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