There are plenty of study abroad myths that exist. Luckily for you, we’re here to dispel them and reveal the truth on everything from over-packing, to homesickness and everything in between!
1. That you’ll need to pack everything from your closet into your suitcase before you go.
It’s hard not to want to pack every pair of shoes or sweater you own. The truth about packing too much is that it’s only going to amount to a higher cost to check it all in at the airport. That and you’ll probably end up not wearing most of the things you pack anyway. Might as well save yourself some space for souvenirs and clothes bought abroad, right? The key to packing is to think in layers and in outfits. Pick items that can be suitable for every season. And most importantly, if you’re a lady, don’t pack heels. You’ll never wear them, guaranteed.
2. That you’ll get along with everyone you meet abroad, be it your roommates, neighbors or other students.
The truth is, you probably won’t. The beauty of people is that we’re all unique and hail from different backgrounds and walks of life. Wherever you decide to study, you’ll definitely be in close contact with so many different people, more so than you were in your home country. While this is 99% of the time a great thing, a chance to meet people from all over the world, you won’t necessarily get along with everyone nor be everyone’s best friend. And that’s okay! It’s just the way humans work. Eventually, you’ll find your niche and who you click with in time.
3. That you’ll be traveling somewhere new every weekend.
When I studied abroad in London, I thought I was going to be visiting another country every weekend, just because of the proximity that European countries have to each other and the relatively cheap cost that European travel is. This didn’t happen in the way I thought and I’m happy it didn’t. By using these tips, and getting comfortable with my new city, I was able to enjoy London much more, the place I chose to study abroad, and therefore made connections and memories there that lasted longer. It’s okay to not travel so much on weekends, and take the time to sit back, relax and enjoy where you are in the present moment, it saves stress, travel time and money, too, which, as a student is always a good thing. Plus, London has so much to offer if you’re there for a whole semester as well as amazing day trips!
4. That you won’t miss home (or aspects of your home that you thought you wouldn’t miss).
Another aspect of study abroad that I can attest to. There’s so much convenience and ease about living and being in your home country, but that’s because it’s taken you at least two decades to get used to the customs of your own culture. There are (many) aspects to my American culture that I thought I wouldn’t miss once I went abroad, but I was wrong. When you study abroad, a big part of the experience outside academics is the cultural awareness and novelty. But it does get difficult to familiarize yourself with another set of cultural norms that are different from your own, especially if you’re not used to them. Even though I never thought I’d miss free toilet use or chatty customer service all that much, I did. You learn to never take any part of your culture for granted.
5.That you’ll be doing a ton of studying.
Despite what the name of the school activity suggests, the truth of the matter is that when you study abroad, you won’t be doing too much studying. Your parents know that, your friends back home know that, and your professors definitely know that, too. So you should come into the mindset that, while you won’t be partying every weekend or sipping on sangria on a villa terrace, studying abroad is more about immersion, exchange and experience more than anything. When you’re somewhere new, there’s only so much sitting in a desk or reading a textbook about said place can do for you. When you’re abroad, the destination is your classroom and the best kind of learning is to take advantage of your new surroundings as much as possible.
6.That you won’t experience sad times or bad days.
It’s important to note that not every part of study abroad is going to be sunshine and rainbows. This can easily be tied to #4. To make it simple, you’re going to miss home. You’re going to cry. You’re going to have bad days and feel homesick. It’s inevitable and part of the transition but don’t worry, you can get over homesickness. It’s also perfectly valid to feel this way. Yet, it’s also equally as important to remember that study abroad isn’t permanent and your experience is only as good or bad as you make of it. If it makes you feel better, when the nostalgia hits and you find yourself reminiscing about your time abroad months later, the only parts you’ll remember will be the positive ones, so make an effort to produce as many of those “feel good” moments as you can.
7. That you’ll come back a completely different person.
There’s no doubt that study abroad is an experience like no other. You learn so much about the new place you’ve settled into for a few months of your life, but also learn so much about yourself and who you are. It’s an opportunity that I would recommend to every student, regardless of age, mindset or situation. But while going abroad is an ideal time during one’s academic career, that’s not to say that when you’re back home, you’ll have become an entirely different person. Your ideals and goals will probably shift, but your general self will remain similar to who you were prior to going away. The true essence of you will always be deep inside, no matter where you go. As Jon Kabat-Zinn said, “wherever you go, there you are.”
8. That you’ll come back the exact same person.
However, despite not coming back a completely new person, you won’t necessarily be the same person, either. You might think that it’s the people around you that have changed, but it’s most likely not them at all. Your family is still the same family. Your friends are still the same friends. It’s you who’s had a unique experience that opened you up to a world that those back home didn’t similarly go through. You’ll have made new friends abroad, new memories in your head and seen or done what others haven’t. Perhaps, things hadn’t done before going abroad too. And that’s quite special. Time and experience really do wonders for the mind, body and soul. Studying abroad has that effect, too. Embrace it.