Our Ambassadors Unpack Their Biggest Study Abroad Fears

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IES Abroad

So you’re accepted into the study abroad program of your dreams, you have your ticket, and your passport and visa are ready to go. On paper all seems well, but this creeping feeling haunts you, lurking like a shadow in the back of your mind. It’s…the study abroad scaries! 😱

Before studying or interning abroad, it's totally normal for a few fears to creep in and take hold. Our IES Abroad Ambassadors are here to tell you the majority of these aren’t nearly as frightening as they may seem! This Halloween, they’re shooing away your study abroad scaries by debunking their top fears:

1. Making Friends Abroad

Alejandra Mateo headshot

Alejandra Mateos • Scripps College • Milan - Italy Today

"I didn't know anyone from my program and went completely by myself. This ended up being the best decision I could've made, I became friends with so many locals and people in my program!"

a cross atop a dome at the Vatican

Victoria Cogliandro • Tulane University • Rome - Language & Area Studies

"I chose my program and left for abroad completely alone and knowing no one, but this fear was relieved as early as arriving at my home airport...IES had sent us so much amazing information before our departure, including a list of the flights everyone was going to be traveling on. It turned out that a lot of people who were also in my program were on the same flight and we actually ended up meeting at the gate and socializing before even leaving the United States. Immediately I realized that I was not alone, as most of us were in the same boat. Everyone was so friendly and kind right from the start and we all had the same goal - make friends and have an amazing experience."

Margaret Kassay

Margaret Kassay • University of Iowa • Dublin - Irish Studies

"Before studying abroad, I was scared of not knowing anyone in my program. In the first few days of being in Dublin, I quickly realized that most of the other students also came abroad not knowing anyone. It was really comforting to remember that we were all there because we wanted to broaden our horizons...My best advice would be to be open to new adventures and opportunities especially during the first few weeks."

2. Traveling by Yourself

Stefanie Cravens

Stefanie Cravens • Villanova University • Madrid - Engineering, Math, and Science

"Although it was initially super intimidating, I fell in love with the independence and confidence I gained abroad."

Taylor Fairweather

Taylor Fairweather • Ithaca College • Berlin - Metro Studies

"I was afraid to travel alone. It was something I've never done before & I had only been on a plane ride once...Now, I want to travel all over the world - alone! There is something so freeing about embarking on your own adventurous journey."

Stephanie Muniz

Stephanie Muniz • Indiana University • Barcelona - Language & Area Studies

"I was nervous about traveling overseas by myself since I started off on the wrong foot. My flight got delayed by a day and it really threw me off but after that everything ended up being easy. I ended up traveling a lot on the weekends and would take trains, planes, buses and even hike to new places."

3. A Language Barrier

Madelyn Riordan

Madelyn Riordan • Miami University • Full-Time Internship - Barcelona

"I was so worried that I would not be able to communicate with people very well but people were a lot more open and accepting to my attempt at Spanish than I imagined."

4. Cooking & Grocery Shopping

Jackie Cheng

Jackie Cheng • University of Texas - Austin • Freiburg - European Union

"Before study abroad, I had barely any cooking skills and was worried about cooking for myself and going grocery shopping in an entirely new country...with a lot of trial and error and the help of my friends and flatmates, I realized I had nothing to be scared of. I ended up learning some new recipes and various cooking skills and having the best experiences cooking with and learning from my friends and flatmates."

Gabrielle Greenberg

Gabrielle Greenberg • Indiana University • Milan - Business Studies

"I was so nervous to learn my way around grocery stores! Especially with a different layout, product selection, and everything being in Italian… so scary! But also very easy once I went!"


Isabela Byerly

Isabela Byerly • Fordham University • Shanghai - Society, Business & Economy

"The biggest thing that I was afraid of before studying abroad was missing out on all of the big events that happen during the fall that are always a great time with family and friends, like Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday...what I didn't realize was that for the same holidays I was missing, I was celebrating others that were considered special to the country I was studying abroad in, like the Mid-Autumn Festival."

a group of students pose for a photo at the Osu Kannon Buddhist temple in Nagoya

Contact a Previous Student

Is one of your scaries not on this list? Chat with an IES Abroad ambassador about what it’s like to be a study abroad student. Our study abroad advisors are also available for any logistical scaries you may have regarding visas, paying for study abroad, and more.

Shoo My Scaries Away!

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