Studying abroad is not what you think. They actually want us to study rather than spend every minute of every day exploring new countries and eating – who’s idea what this? Studying abroad encompasses taking classes in another country while learning about a new culture, yourself, and how to manage unique situations that will be very applicable to life after college. Students throughout their study abroad experience hit a Wall: The Wall of Stress. Money, time, classes, and fitting in are some of the reasons students hit this Wall. This should not be anything new or surprising because these are problems students have in school in the United States. It is just a little more dramatic because mom is farther than usual. Nonetheless, these concerns can be handled and teach us meaningful lessons along the way.
So how much exactly are we supposed to save to comfortably shop, dine, and travel for a semester? To ensure I had enough money to meet my needs and wants for a semester without a job, I saved up two years in advance. I worked three jobs between being at home and at school. I set this money aside in a mason jar until my departure date neared and I placed it in my account.
For the first month abroad, everything is new and glamorous. Pace yourself. You do not have to purchase something from every store, nor eat at a new restaurant every night. There is plenty of time to visit the SALE RACK and try plates galore.
Swiping a card is as dangerous abroad as it is in the states because it is so easy to run a bill without noticing it. Each swipe abroad is accompanied by a currency conversion fee which adds up quickly. Withdraw a certain amount per week or two and stick to it. Document each purchase to observe where you can slow down on visits – do you really need a cookie between your 11AM class every Monday and Wednesday?
Local people can spot a tourist a mile away. Don’t make yourself a victim of pickpocketing by carrying large amounts of cash. Rationing money throughout the week also decreases impulse shopping.
Time is one of the few things that once it is gone it will not come back. Make sure every moment spent abroad is meaningful. Knock class work out first so the stress of upcoming due dates is behind you. Carve out study time to ensure that when tests and quizzes arise you are not stressing and cramming.
Studying abroad is the most opportune time to visit other countries. Do not overbook your semester with travel plans every weekend. Book a few trips in every month, leaving a few weekends to embrace your host country and relax. Plans may come up mid-semester with your new friends, leave some cushion space for the unexpected.
Find a way to document your experience! Blogs, vlogs, and journals are great ways to keep things flowing. Some people use apps the record them for a minute a day to reflect on things. In a year or two, it will be incredible to review your feelings and thoughts from a year ago while you away. You may come across great advice you have given yourself.
Yes, this is the part of the study abroad deal cramping the travel plans, but hey the teachers are cool so it evens out. Remember your true reason for studying abroad – to STUDY while in another country.
If classes become tricky for one reason or another do not be afraid to address concerns with teachers. They know that studying abroad is about more than students coming overseas. If things are not adding up, making sense, or there are external problems affecting your work, let them know. Every teacher I have in Seville has an open-door policy. Granted, they do not have an office for hours, they respond to emails and are open to meeting over coffee – it’s the culture, and it’s cool! Do not abuse your professors’ kind attitudes.
Do not try to tackle a usual semester’s worth of credits overseas. Last semester I took 18 credit hours at North Carolina A&T. I wanted to tackle 17 here but it was not advised. Besides my classes being taught in Spanish, the director did not want students stressing over grades instead of enjoying the world around them.
Studying abroad like being the kindergartner amongst the fifth graders all over again. Unless you come with a few students from your school, you may be starting over with making friends. No worries, you’re not alone!
I did not know a soul from my flight in Virginia until I met my roommate Brooke. Everyone is excited and open to meeting new people – that’s one of the purposes of the program.
Be yourself! Acting like something you are not will only make meeting people confusing and people can see through facades.
Don’t judge a book by its cover. My friends and I have agreed that our group is unique. We would not have talked to each other had we went to the same school because we don’t look like those whom we normally spend time with. Nonetheless, through spending authentic time with one another, we see that some of the coolest people should be appreciated for more than what meets the eye.
What is fitting in when none of us are from the country we are visiting? How can we “fit in” if we must figure directions and locations out in the first place? I say this to say, do not stress when it comes to making friends.