My blogs and Instagram correspondent posts have been showing the exciting traveling and exploring aspects of studying abroad, but it is not always so fun. This does not mean studying abroad hasn’t been great and an amazing opportunity, but rather that I have had various feelings throughout the semester. In the beginning, orientation and settling into your host city leaves no space for self-reflection, but after a few weeks, I started to feel a huge wave of homesickness.
The time difference with my friends and family back home is nine hours, making it very difficult to catch them during free time for both of us. When I am waking up, they are going to sleep, when I am out of class, they are at work or school, etc. This difficulty of not being able to talk to them very much, as well as being so far from home in a new city meeting and getting to know new people, piled up to make me feel very sad and isolated. Although I was around people from my program (who I now love), I felt very lonely. Eventually, I was able to create a schedule with my family, but those first few weeks were very testing, especially along with my expectations of studying abroad.
Normalizing Expectation vs. Reality
I felt like I had to have everything figured out right away at the start of the program, specifically travel plans. I was outlining my weekends and believed I wasn’t going to many places and was frustrated. This was not the reality, I eventually figured my trips out and have loved every single one of them! One thing I would tell my past self, and now you all is to not feel like you have to hit every city, country, place, etc. While it is good to have a list of a few places you want to visit, don’t stress yourself out thinking about it so early on. Things will work out and you will book trips with amazing travel partners!
Another important aspect to make apparent is that not every day abroad will be an awesome memory or story. Many days will be like school days back home. I have many BeReals of me just in my dorm on my laptop doing work, and that is okay. It is okay for some days to feel slow/unproductive of taking advantage of studying abroad and exploring. There are normal days abroad too. They allowed me to feel a little bit at home after I stopped stressing about this ‘taking advantage’ thought. While many days will be normal, there have been many (captured by BeReal of course) of me enjoying my time with friends, traveling, exploring etc.
Be kind to yourself
There have been a few moments where I’ve overwhelmed myself trying to fulfill this expectation of studying abroad, but the reality is different. You will have weekends, break, and maybe post-program to travel and explore whatever location you’ve chosen, but make sure to take care of yourself throughout the process.
Taking care of yourself looks different for everyone, but for me, it consisted of talking with family, going for walks and sitting in a quiet place looking out at Salamanca, and surrounding myself with the friends I have made out here. I have thrown in a good amount of alone time in my dorm, but don’t underestimate the power the presence of friends has on your well-being. To past me, and all of you, you got this and it’s all going to work out <3
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Hi! My name is Alexandra Carrillo and I am a 2nd year at my university. I am studying International Relations and Spanish with emphases in politics and security and Latin American literature. I am from the USA and México and I often travel between the two. My hobbies include embroidering, painting, and reading (my favorite genres are romance and history). A fun fact about me is that I have a twin sister who goes to the same university as me (we are fraternal and people still mix us up!). I look forward to documenting my journey abroad and the people and places I'll meet along the way!