If you’re nervous about study abroad, you’re not alone. Everyone has worries about experiencing life as a local student abroad for the first time. On our Facebook page, we recently asked our followers, “What’s a worry someone might have before studying abroad that they don’t need to actually worry about?”
See our followers’ questions below, along with our Program Advisors’ sage advice.
1. Will I have enough clothes? What do I pack? HELP!
“Take what you’ve packed, and take half of it out of your suitcase – now you’re ready! I know it’s tempting to think, ‘What if I need X or Y?’, but trust me, less is more. If it’s constantly in your laundry rotation because you love it, take it! If it’s been collecting dust in the back of your closet for the past six months because you haven’t had an occasion to wear it, it’s not worth it. You can always purchase something there if you find a void in your wardrobe!"
– Katie K., Program Advisor - Madrid
For more packing advice, check out our Facebook Live and hear IES Abroad staff members dish on their must-pack study abroad items.
2. Will I be understood when speaking another language?
“Not always. You will be able to get your point across in most situations, but expect to have frustration once in a while, and maybe pantomime at the grocery store when you can’t find the word for something! If you don’t know the language that well, that’s totally normal. Most people will be impressed that you are trying and making an effort. You will improve a lot during your time abroad, and practicing the language will be hard, but worth it.”
– Maggie L., Program Advisor - Freiburg, London Health, Nagoya, Nantes, Nice, Salamanca
For more language pointers, check out this study abroad blog post from our Milan blogger Abigail Grinberg who shares her insider tips on improving your language skills abroad.
3. Will I make friends?
“I promise you that everyone on your program is asking themselves the same question. That’s a good thing because it means that you’re all looking for friends! Now all you need to do is meet each other. Oh, wait! You’ll do that, too! During orientation, you will have plenty of time to get to know the rest of the students on your program. My advice is to be open and get to know them. One of the best parts of studying abroad is making friends from outside of your school and home groups.”
– Nicole Z., Program Advising Manager & Program Advisor - European Union
4. Will I be able to find food I like?
“Probably! But it’s really important to keep an open mind when living in a different country. I tried to never turn down a local resident offering me food, no matter how unusual the dish may have seemed. The result? Sometimes I tried some really weird dishes. Some great, some not so much. But, in the end, I expanded my palette and acquired some pretty great anecdotes along the way.”
– Melanie R., Program Advisor - Amsterdam, Berlin, Santiago, Tokyo
5. Will I get along with my host family?
“The best advice I can give is that no two host families are the same. It is so easy to get that email, with a very brief background of your family and instantly start making up ideas of who they are in your head. If you can, reach out to your host family if they provide contact information – you might be able to find out what they would like from the United States, and you can start to tell them about what kinds of foods you like.
“It all goes back to having an open mind and communicating with your family. At the end of the day, they’re no different from living with a roommate or family back home. I learned very quickly that it is always better to talk to your family about something rather than to sit in a confused silence wondering why your host family is doing something or how they are feeling. I promise!”
– Chelsea K., Program Advisor - Beijing, Dublin, Rome, Shanghai
Read about the host family experience of our Nagoya student blogger Naomi Wolfe in this study abroad blog post.
6. Will I adapt to the culture?
“Yes, though you probably won’t notice that you’re doing it until half way through the semester. All of a sudden, you’ll know where to get certain things like your favorite brand of snacks or a particular restaurant that always has discounts on Wednesday nights. Tourists (because that’s no longer what you’ll be) will stop you to ask for directions, and you’ll be able to get them there! You’ll know the slang that the local students use and what shortcuts to take to class. So, yes, you’ll definitely adapt!”
– Kandice R., Program Advisor - Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Galápagos Islands, Quito
Thanks, Program Advisors!
Have more questions? Contact our Program Advisors to have all of your study abroad questions answered.