No doubt that studying abroad is a process that involves a lot of planning and effort, but there are some aspects that tend to worry students more than others. Leaving for a few weeks, a semester, or even a year can be very stressful, especially once the departure date nears.
However, it is common for returnees to say “man, I shouldn’t even have worried about _____.” So if you’re about to go abroad and feeling a bit torn up about these topics, try to take a deep breath and remember, everything will work out.
1. Not Making Friends
Before arriving at your destination it can be tempting to toy with the horror that you’ll be flying solo your entire time abroad… Fear not! Students who study abroad with USAC come from over 300 different universities all across the United States. Odds are there will be other wonderful group members that you’ll meet, travel the world with, and reunite months (even years) after your program comes to an end. Generally, students don’t know one another prior to their stint abroad, so everyone is in the same boat and working to find fun people to hit the streets with.
2. Living Accommodations
“Okay, so I know the city I’m going to, the classes I’ve requested, and I’m done with all my paperwork… But where will I be living?!” Don’t worry; you won’t be left out on the streets. For most USAC programs, students are able to request a general housing location and type before departure, but won’t receive actual housing assignments until orientation at their program site. The staff does an excellent job with housing placements based upon the personal information students submit, so make sure to answer all questions honestly! And just remember, it’s all about what you make of it once you’re there.
Leaving behind friends, family, and the university you’ve grown to call home can be really difficult. The process leading up to studying abroad is filled with excitement, but when the time comes to say goodbye it can be tough to come to terms with FOMO, the infamous Fear Of Missing Out.
The idea of leaving behind football games, Saturdays at the pool, and going out with your best friends is tough, but remember that you’re about to be exploring new surroundings and taking advantage of an experience that only ~2% of US students participate in. Believe it or not, your friends will wish they were abroad after seeing your pictures of beautiful landscapes, decadent food, historic landmarks, and countless adventures. And trust me, when you return home you’ll realize that nothing has changed, except you (in a good way)!
4. Not Knowing the Language
“Hallo, ciao, hola… hi?” If you don’t know the language of your host country, don’t stress about it – you’ll learn! You will take a language class through USAC to get the basics down, and any extra preparation on your part will only benefit you. While English speakers are not normally bilingual, many foreigners are. Attempting to speak in the native tongue of your host country will be much appreciated by the locals, but it’s pretty customary for foreigners to know at least basic English. As long as you’re friendly, locals will be more than happy to help you in the grocery store, café or train station!
Packing can be quite an ordeal. It might creep up on you as your semester abroad nears. As it does, the stress may sink in; are you bringing the right amount of the right stuff? I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but just to emphasize… Pack light!
It’s easy to over pack when you’ll be away from home for a month or more, but bringing as little as possible is the best way to stay under airline weight limits, save room for souvenirs, and make your life easier! Bring layerable, multi-use items in solid colors that will transition you from one season to the next, good quality shoes (you’ll be walking everywhere), and avoid multiples of bulky winter items. And if you’re worried about standing out as a tourist, don’t be. No matter what you do, the locals will know… they have a gift. Don’t worry about it! Embrace it, be yourself, and if that pair of perfect, locally-made, Italian leather shoes will help you “fit in”… buy them.
Do you relate to any of these topics? Are there any other things you stressed about prior to leaving for a big trip? Comment here to share your stories!