I have been here for almost three weeks and I am starting to settle in. This, temporarily, is now my home. I no longer have the sense that I am on vacation, though I am still floored by all the amazing sites. I am more objective now. Everything I do and see isn’t shiny and new. Which isn’t as cynical as it might sound. I’ve starting noticing what I like and don’t like. I’ve also realized something that people looking to study abroad, or are already doing so, might find helpful.
When deciding to pursue study abroad, you find yourself talking to others who have already been. You look up websites and blogs that can give you more insight into what the experience will be like. Everyone talks about the benefits. This is obvious. If you are choosing to do something, hearing about horrible experiences is not going to light a fire to pursue that path.
However, you cannot have the good without the bad. But knowing that does not mean you stop enjoying things or trying new things. It means you are prepared.
Study abroad is incredible. I love England and I love that I get to live in London for six weeks. But it is not a fairy tale. Just because you are in another place, a new country, does not mean everything will be cookie cutter perfect. You are still you. You are still living life as a human being surrounded by other human beings.
You may find yourself with a full bladder, lost and scared, your eyes itchy and burning with infection, a low phone battery, wifi that can cut out at anytime, and an inch away from bursting into tears in the middle of the sidewalk while strangers mill around you. But then, finally, a cab will stop for you and the kind driver will tell you to wear glasses to help with the hay fever. You will get medicine for your eyes, ice cream for comfort, and call your parents to cry.
You will want to go home at least once in your stay but you will (hopefully) realize that you can be an adult and live in the “real” world. Study abroad will widen your horizons and that can mean many things for different people. For some it means traveling and getting away from their hometown, but for others it can give them a new appreciation for what they already have.
The bad or scary or inconvenient times will be outweighed ten fold by the outstanding times, friends, and experiences you will have on your trip abroad. If things are always peachy keen, then it will lose its value. Don’t believe that just because you are doing something new means everything will be always awesome all the time, but don’t let the substandard times define your experience abroad either. It’s a balance.