What I Wish I Knew Before Studying Abroad

Dear Cy-Anne,

This decision is BIG… so big that it seems scary thinking about it. But those nerves and doubts mean you’re officially out of your comfort zone and on the brink of doing something MAJOR. I remember when you thought of studying abroad in Africa during your first week of college and how you were so eager to see the world. Now, look at you…awoken from your daydreams. You aren’t intimidated by the price tag either. Stay determined and apply for those scholarship applications you have lined up. Because of your faith and persistence, you won’t have to worry about money for this trip, let alone the whole summer.

Say yes more often, buy as many souvenirs as possible, and eat all the new foods! Make friends with everyone and don’t become small when people keep staring at you in China. It’s not their fault, and they mean no harm by it. It’s your responsibility to make their encounter with you a pleasant one, because they may never see another black woman again. So yes, let those sweet women and kids examine your hair and try your hardest to converse with them. They’re honestly so curious and straightforward that you’ll think that you’re the attraction…maybe charge people 5 Yuan to start it off? (haha jk jk)

Soak it all up. It’s not exactly Southern hospitality, but people will treat like a Queen! Take up the offers to have fun, and let go for once in your life. Come out of that shell because no one knows you but they want to be around you all the time!

But I have to be honest, it’ll be really hard sometimes. You’ll have some bad homesickness, get sick a couple of times, and the spicy food will get to your tonsils soon enough. You’ll cry and want to stay in bed…it’ll be hard talking to people from back home… and it’ll get lonely knowing that you’re halfway around the world by yourself.

But you’ll do it…and you’ll get through it with so many stories, finding exactly what you’re looking for. Just be free!

Make sure to pack your nail clippers, anti-diarrhea pills, tissues, and more film for your Polaroid camera. And for the love of God, please download some music and movies beforehand.

You’re doing amazing sweetie. Have fun!

I am now a part of the 6% of Black undergraduates, in the nation, who have studied abroad in college.

Thank you for sticking with me throughout my journey. I hope you became inspired to share your own in the near future.

Stay cool,


Cy-Anne Small is a University of Florida student. She studied abroad in Chengdu, China in Summer 2018. This article originally appeared on the University of Florida blog.