I’m two days into exploring London, England, as part of my study abroad experience on the way to Granada, Spain, and I’m already learning so much. Prior to studying abroad there are a million things that are on your mind: What if I lose my passport? What if I don’t make friends? What if I get pickpocketed? The list goes on. As a first-time study abroad student who has dealt with the same internal self-interrogation, I’m here to shed light on a more realistic perspective of your study abroad trip so that you don’t feel as silly as I did for stressing so much!
Here are five things I did before leaving to study abroad, but wish I didn’t – and hope you won’t do either!
1. Doubting myself
Do not doubt yourself. You have everything you need inside of you for this trip to be phenomenal, and it’s all up to you now. For days I tried to write down every redundant rule my parents ran off to me, failing to realize that they are the same rules they’ve been telling me since I was a little child:
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Keep your items in a safe place
- Go with your instincts. If you feel unsafe – leave.
You know all of these things already, and you’ll be surprised at how natural all of this comes to you. Your parents have instilled these rules into you and have raised a wonderful child. Have faith in yourself and your abilities and leave the stress behind!
2. Forgetting to pack probiotics
Okay, this one isn’t as deep and inspirational. Do not forget probiotics, or whatever works for your stomach. I am speaking from experience; it is very common for your body to have a difficult time adjusting to food abroad at first. Probiotics have helped aid my body in digesting these foods and have allowed things to move, lets just say… smoother. Thank me later!
3. Fearing I’ll be alone
Honestly, I haven’t been alone yet since I’ve been here! In fact, right when I walked in line to check in my luggage at the airport, a girl tapped me on my shoulder and asked, “Are you Imani?” To my surprise, it was my roommate! From that point forward, the group has only grown, and I look forward to it growing even bigger once I meet everyone in the program. There are so many people in the same position as you, waiting to meet someone they can explore and adventure with. So be there – completely and fearlessly.
4. Not researching social norms of culture
In London, the cultural and lifestyle norms are sometimes the opposite of where I live in the United States – particularly when it comes to transportation. For example, the people in London drive on the left side of the streets because the cars are built differently. The steering wheel is located on the right side of each car. In America, the right side is called the passenger side. If you walk into someone’s car on the right side in London, they will most likely assume that you want to drive. In London, the people also walk on the opposite side of the street. If you do not know this, you will find yourself running into everyone! Lastly, it is important to know that when getting on the Tube in London (a very common way of transportation), you should wait for everyone else to get off before you attempt to get on. This is a huge sign of courtesy!
5. Making assumptions of the new culture based off of my home country
When visiting a whole new country, you should really throw out biases that are taught to you in your home country about those in the country you are visiting. It isn’t fair for you, nor is it fair for the new friends that you have already judged in your mind based off of stereotypical views of them. Every culture is different. Not better nor worse, just different! It is important that you experience the culture for yourself, don’t take anyone else’s opinion of the culture and run with it. Create your own and do not rob the next person of their experience! It will be amazing. Trust me. I’m not even a week in yet, and I’m having the time of my life.
Most importantly, make the best of your experience! It will be exactly what you make of it.