After the conclusion of my stressful and sleep-deprived midterm exams, I’ve found myself sick for the second time this semester, munching on pieces of chocolate and rice crackers, hunched over a youtube video in my room at my host family's house. Not exactly the glamorous image of a young traveler fulfilling her dreams and having life-changing experiences in France
The truth is, With all that good growth that comes along with studying abroad there are sure to also be some ugly growing pains. In this blog, I’m taking a break from the adventures to address some of the struggles I’ve faced and shared with fellow IES students during the first half of our semester. By simply addressing these problems we can be more equipped for a smoother, second half of the semester.
Allons-y! (Let's go!)
Growing Pain #1: I’m spending too much money
This worry strikes home for me and deserves a blog post all by itself (coming soon). In short, after the first month of study abroad a glance at my bank statement was enough to make my stomach queasy. A tight budget and a lack of budgeting meant that my meals out, bus tickets, and grocery lists were draining me faster than my bank account could manage.
3 Key tips to prevent this problem:
CREATE A BUDGET. Before arrival, look at the amount of money that you are willing to spend and then divide that monthly - accounting for groceries and bus tickets. Make sure to subtract money for that trip that you absolutely need to take from the overall budget total. Then….
TRACK YOUR SPENDING. Especially during the first month of your time in your host country, when your budget is almost sure to change a bit as you become accustomed to local prices. After that month, you can reflect - if you are spending too much: where can you make sacrifices? This leads me to….
ESTABLISHING YOUR PRIORITIES. This process is totally unique and different for everyone. Do you want to come home from France with lots of cool trinkets and souvenirs in the forms of colorful scarves? Or, are you more of a foodie and would prefer that extra crepe lunch? Or maybe you have plans to travel to Europe? It’s impossible to fit everything in your budget, so pick wisely.
Also, realize you aren't alone in this struggle. TOns of other IES abroad students have had amazing semesters on a budget! Check out this recent IES blog for more tips.
Growing Pain #2: I miss my family
Abroad, it's easy to feel like there is no one available to talk about our difficulties since all our friends are hundreds of miles and a large time difference away. However, there is a world of support available if we apply ourselves to seek it.
The first available support system is the IES Abroad staff. They have been helping other equally-homesick students for years, and thus are an incredible resource. They are also genuinely really nice people.
Open up to new people while abroad, and you just might find yourself with a brand new support system - a kind of second family away from home :) I feel incredibly lucky to have found a group of fellow students that I can laugh, worry, support, and get support from daily here in France. The struggles of our abroad experiences - being homesick together - have only pulled us closer, forming bonds that I believe will last long beyond the study abroad experiences.
Growing Pain #3: I’m in over my head
This is something people might feel to varying degrees, depending on any previous travel experience and French language levels. For myself, I came to France after only having taken two years of university classes in French, so it’s safe to say I was a bit unprepared for the journey.
Tip: Life is made up of little acts of walking ourselves up to mountains that seem a little too high for us, and then actually climbing them. Chances are, you’ve already done something in the past that you thought was impossible; remind yourself of that event. These experiences are normal: they are how we grow. Or at least, that’s what I’ll be telling myself as I try to finish reading two giant works of literature for a class at the University of Nantes.
Growing Pain #4: I can’t Stay Healthy
Don’t let all that work keep you from taking care of yourself. Staying healthy is imperative to a good study abroad experience (I'm learning this the hard way).
In order to avoid overworking yourself for classes, or overstimulating yourself with adventures, take the time to create a weekly schedule that works for you. Schedule inadequate times to sleep, eat, and workout each week, then fill in the rest with a mixture of study and excursions. Both your classes and your downtime in France are important – make sure you include a balanced time for both (just perhaps add a bit more time to prepare for classes closer to exams).
It also helps to eat a balanced diet - that means paying the extra two euros for some spinach. Multivitamins can also lend a hand.
Growing Pain #5: Regrets
I strongly believe that we shouldn’t be afraid to have regrets, especially while abroad. Why? Regrets are the result of having learned something after the event that we feel regretful about. Throughout the process of studying abroad, we learn a lot of things, so of course, we might feel bad for some of the decisions our wide-eyed selves made upon arrival.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t try hard to make this semester as great as possible; we’ve spent a lot of money for this experience and should leave feeling satisfied. I just mean, if not all goes completely as planned – if you spend too much money, miss your family and friends, don’t travel as much as you wish, or get sick, don’t feel so bad about it!
Life lasts a lot longer than one semester – and we can apply all of these lessons for better successes later on in life.
Source of Quotes: https://www.globe-trotting.com/les-citations-de-voyage
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<p>My name is Miah Chu Won Tapper. I come from a large family with two younger brothers and three younger step-siblings, whom I live with on the small island of Oahu, Hawaii. I’ve always had a passion for traveling but until now I’ve only traveled the world in books. As a French major, I’m so excited to be able to continue the adventure in Nantes, France. </p>