Well, dear reader(s), it’s hard to believe it but I have officially reached my last day doing study abroad in Salamanca, Spain. Seriously, it’s crazy to think that I’ve spent the better part of four months living in a foreign country, exploring a new culture, and taking classes in a different language, all without my friends and family right there by my side. It’s been a great four months and I’ve definitely learned a lot, both academically and about myself. I’d like to share with you today, as I reflect on what an amazing adventure this has been, some of the most important things I’ve learned.
1. Making friends makes everything easier: When you’re studying abroad, you’re probably a part of a program with other U.S. students and trust me, they’re probably feeling just as anxious/excited/exhausted as you are. Reach out to the people around you and try to make friends as soon as you can. Not only will you have someone to explore the city with, or travel around with, you’ll also have someone to complain to because sometimes, your friends back home don’t really get it.
2. Everybody struggles: Studying abroad is a very exciting time but it’s also a very emotionally draining and exhaustive process as well. If you find yourself suddenly feeling down because you miss your family too much, or the classes are harder than you were expecting, or you weren’t able to go on a weekend trip like everyone else, just now that you’re not alone. Trust me. I’ve experienced all these things while studying abroad so you can rest assured that there’s at least one person out there who has gone through what you’re going through. Most everyone I’ve talked to while studying abroad have been homesick at some point. Some thought they were possibly failing one of their classes, and not everyone traveled every other weekend. If you’re feeling down, take a moment to look around and you’ll realize that there may be some other people in the same boat.
3. Netflix will still be there: As I’m sure I’ve mentioned many times before, I’m an introvert. That being said, sometimes (most of the time), I find myself not wanting to be around any other people at all and would prefer to sit at home, by myself, watching Netflix all day. At the time I’m pretty happy but later on when I’m reflecting on my day, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed in myself for not going out and living life to the fullest. So for all you peeps out there that just want to take a break and binge watch Stranger Things again, just remember that Netflix will still be there after you go for a walk or go shopping or go hang out with other people. Go out and smell those roses, and if you find you really hate the flowers in your city, you can always reward yourself for the effort with a movie marathon.
4. Say yes to as many things as you can: This falls in line with the previous point. The likelihood of you ever going back to the city you’re studying abroad in is pretty low (unless you get a sweet job that lets you live/travel anywhere you want). Because of this, try to say yes to experiencing as many things as you can. I’ll admit, I wasn’t the best at doing this, but when I did say yes to going out, or going to an exchange student event or whatever, I ended up having a great time. You’ve gotta open yourself up to the possibilities but you also need to take good care of yourself while abroad which leads me to my next point…
5. Say no to some things: Please, try as many new things as you can and live your life so you don’t have any regrets later. But also, please don’t say yes to things that you really, really don’t want to do. If you’ve gone out partying for the past three weekends and feel like you need to sleep, then stay home and sleep. If you’re invited to go out and eat dinner when you know you shouldn’t be spending any more money, just don’t do it. You know your own limits. Other people may have their own limits but they might not coincide with yours. So if you’re seriously not feeling up to visiting another country for the weekend with your friends, say no and take care of yourself.
6. Try it once then never again: I have a rule in my life, which I mainly apply to food and experiences: if you have the opportunity to eat something you’ve never had before or try a new activity you’ve never done before, do it at least once. Then, you can go the rest of your life with the knowledge that you’ve at least tried it instead of thinking for the rest of your life: “man, I should have tried that one thing that one time”.
I hope some of these points that I’ve made help you through your study abroad/traveling experience, no matter where you find yourself. The crazy thing is, these are only some of the things I’ve learned. Imagine what you’ll discover about yourself when you take the plunge and study abroad on your own. It’s going to be an amazing, incredible experience.
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<p>I'm a third year college student excited about seeing everything this amazing planet has to offer. Originally from Oregon, I've slowly been finding my place in the world through travels throughout North America, China, and now Europe! I hope this blog offers advice, inspiration, and a bit of humor for any current and future travelers.</p>