I freeze, a fork full of delicious ratatouille halfway to my mouth.
“Before actually arriving here, I felt so lost with what to do with my life,” my friend says “I wasn’t even sure that I should study abroad...”
Had she read my diary?
She continues, “...but now that I am here, it’s like all of those worries have been forgotten, or at least muted.”
Now she was reading my mind.
As my friend shared her pre-departure story with me over lunch, I felt increasingly weirded out by how similar our stories were.
To many, myself included, going abroad during college is a must. But when I finally pulled the trigger and committed to a program, I was overcome by anxiety. Suddenly, I began to doubt my decision to study abroad. I began to question whether I had chosen the right program and then I began to question whether it had even been a good idea to study abroad in the first place.
On top of worrying about my decision and future, once I began to comprehend how much I had to do to get ready to go I really began to freak out. There was suddenly so much to learn and pack and plan, and I was completely overwhelmed. I kept looking for some sign that I had made the right decision to go abroad, but I received none. I scoured countless blogs and books and spent hours asking others who had studied abroad about their experience, but nothing I found made me feel any better about my decision. I kept worrying that I was doing something wrong. After all, most people are over the moon when they finally get to study abroad, but I was consumed by anxiety.
On the day of my departure, I was still anxious and unsure about my decision. On the flight over I could not stop thinking about all the things that could go wrong, or all the things I was unprepared for. I was sure that I had made a huge mistake. I spent the first few days abroad waiting for something terrible to befall me, but nothing did. In fact, my first few days here in Nice were peaceful and fun. I had time to explore, meet new people, and get adjusted. Moreover, I had a great introduction to my host family, and I found that Nice had everything I could ever want and more. Yes, there were still moments of stress when learning to navigate a new city, culture, and language but I managed to get along pretty well.
It was not until this moment at lunch after having been abroad for almost a week and hearing my friend talk about her study abroad anxiety that I too realized that my internal crisis had faded into the background. Everything was fine, everything was better than fine. So, while all the questions I had about myself and my future had not been answered, I realized that a lot of my fears about studying abroad had been unfounded (they do, in fact, have peanut butter in Nice). In allowing myself to let go and experience this new place, my anxiety had been relegated to the background. There was no perfect moment when everything came together or some miraculous sign letting me know that I had made the right decision to study abroad, but the fact that much of my anxiety faded soon after I arrived tells me it was certainly not the wrong decision
I suffered a bit from buyers’ remorse after committing to a program. And while there have been times that have been difficult and overwhelming, a majority of my time abroad has been exciting, encouraging, and wonderful. I cannot tell you for sure that you made the right decision in studying abroad, but I can tell you that studying abroad is a worthwhile experience and if you make it work it will work for you. It can be very easy to get caught up in your worries, but I find that having faith in yourself and abiding by the rule “expect the best, prepare for the worst” are good practice for having a good time abroad.
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<p>Hello! I am a junior at the College of William and Mary studying global studies and data science, but my true loves are language learning and map-making. I enjoy reading and playing soccer, and I also love to bake, though I more resemble a candidate for Nailed It! then an actual baker. I am excited to go to France this fall so that I can practice my French with locals and eat some good food. For my next adventure abroad, I would love to go to China as I have recently begun to study Chinese and fallen in love with the Netflix show Wild China.</p>