There's a lot of aspects to studying abroad that can be absolutely terrifying – a new country, new customs, new foods, new time zone. Yet so many people ignore one of the most common problems of studying abroad that students run into: loneliness.
Studying abroad doesn't come with a friend guaruntee. Granted, many people choose to pursue study abroad with their friends, but for the majority of us, we are thrust into a whole new world without any idea who we will be discovering this world with.
When I arrived in Paris, I cried all day. I was lonely, in a completely unknown land, surrounded by strangers speaking a language I wasn't necessarily good at. But what got to me the most was the fact that I had willingly distanced myself from everyone I know and feel safe around. And frankly, that feelilng was terrifying.
I'm not saying this will be your experience, and I hope it isn't. But if you, like me, have lived your life with strong connections to family and friends, being in a new country far away from all that might come as quite a slap in the face for you. However, I can promise you, it will get better if you let it.
People rave about the friendships they make in study abroad, but for me, I feared that I wouldn't be able to bond with anyone in my program. Especially as one of the only students who seemed to need to worry about money, I was afraid the wealth disparity between me and other students would prevent me from experiencing the country as much as I could. Not to mention, I felt starkly different from the other people in my program, and felt as though none of them truly wanted to be my friend.
What I've realized over my month here is that people will want to be your friend if you let them. All you can do is continuously put yourself out there, sharing things about yourself and seeking similarities in the hopes that something will stick. And at the end of the day, you will find people who are as excited and nervous and anxious to get out there and explore and absorb the culture just like you.
If you're feeling lonely studying abroad, don't be afraid to reach out to your classmates and propose an outing to some of the more touristy spots (they're always a good place to start). Most of the IES Abroad programs are relatively small, and even if no one has anything in common, the desire to be there will unite you. There will be moments of awkwardness, and conflict, but you only have a limited time to discover your new city, so go out and DO. You may end up like I did, friends with people who you'd never expect to get close to, discovering shared interests with a whole assortment of characters.
Even if all falls flat, go out alone and discover. Sitting in your house crying does nothing but keep you miserable. Talk to locals, stumble upon the hidden delights of your city, take some time to just revel in the beauty of the city you're in. You will find the joy of studying abroad, even if you have to go out and find it alone.
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<p>Maya Haws-Shaddock is a rising junior, majoring in Advertising, minoring in French, Business and Digital Arts & Media. Having been raised in Austin, she holds a deep-rooted love for local live music, funky aesthetics, and unnecessary winter clothes she’ll never get to wear. While not staring into the endless void of Adobe Masterworks, Maya spends her time working in a variety of student organizations, drinking overpriced chai, making the most of the local live music, or digging through racks of questionably clean clothing at her local thrift stores.</p>