Student Voices — "Dear Me: Tips for Studying Abroad" by Katelynn Dreyer

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Kiah Zellner-Smith
November 10, 2015

My name is Katelynn, and I am a Junior at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. I studied abroad at Dublin City University in Spring 2015. My semester abroad was full of traveling, and my favorite place that I visited was Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany!
After studying abroad in Dublin, I wrote this retrospective letter to myself with advice to keep in mind for my study abroad journey.

Dear Katelynn,

I know it’s a bit overwhelming to think about, but you’ll be leaving shortly to embark on a journey of a lifetime to another country. So, take a deep breath and get ready to make some of the most amazing memories—I’ve put together a list of studying abroad advice you should keep in mind as you’re beginning this journey:

  1. First off, acknowledge that study abroad will be a challenging journey.
    You will get tested in ways you never have before. You will miss your friends and family back home. You will feel completely overwhelmed at times. You’ll have to adjust your whole lifestyle. BUT, you’ll also become a part of a new culture, make new friends, and experience more new things in a few months than most people experience in a lifetime—that’s what studying abroad is all about.
  2. You will be sleep deprived for the majority of your time abroad.
    It starts with jet lag and never quite ends until you’re home safe. New opportunities arise so quickly that it’s easy to put off sleep for friends, trips, festivals, and any other activities that you will only be able to do while in your host country.
  3. Document everything.
    You might think you’re taking thousands of pictures too many but you won’t. Every picture will bring back countless memories—both big and small. Keep a journal and write in it EVERY SINGLE DAY. I know, it seems boring and time consuming. But the memories you’re making will eventually fade and rereading about your time abroad is a great way to make sure even the most minor details from your time studying abroad will never be forgotten.
  4. Keep in contact with your mom and dad.
    Call, text, write, email, Skype, it doesn’t matter how—just do it. While you’re out in a different country making memories of a lifetime, chances are your parents are worrying nonstop. Shoot them a text everyday proving that you’re alive and enjoying your time and set up a set time to Skype every week. It will put your family at ease and also is a good way to share your experiences as they happen. Another good way to keep in contact is through blogging: it’s an easy way to keep in contact with everyone from back home without having to answer the same questions over and over again.
  5. Don’t be afraid of your roommates.
    They’re going to be some of the most amazing people you will ever meet. They’ll be the people you hang out with the most and who you take for granted during your months abroad. They’ll also be the hardest goodbyes and the people you miss everyday back home. It’s a hard adjustment going from living 10 feet apart to living on opposite sides of the United States.
  6. Step out of your comfort zone.
    Actually, jump out of your comfort zone and never look back. It’s called a comfort zone for a reason, right? By leaving behind everything you still feel comfortable with you’ll experience so many new, remarkable things. You’re only going to be abroad for a few short months—and trust me, it will be over before you know it—so try the weird looking food, go hang out with new friends, do things you will remember for the rest of your life.
  7. However, don’t forget to stay true to who you are. 
    Go explore a new culture but remember what you stand for. This is a time to fully explore who you are as an individual; make sure you take some time to establish that for yourself.
  8. All in all, go in with such a positive mindset that this will be the best few months of your life because I can promise you that it will be.

Your post-study abroad self.

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Kiah Zellner-Smith

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