1. People stop Facebooking you.
For some strange reason, friends and family who usually talk to you every day online suddenly stop responding to you or sending you messages. They may like and comment on the occasional post, but despite telling you in short sentences how exciting your travels seem, they don’t really talk to you anymore. Even when they do talk to you, it’s never about what’s going on at home – things are “fine” back at school, friends are “the same” and they often push aside details of what life is like back at school to hear the “more exciting” things you are doing. Really, you don’t want to talk only about you, you want something at home to connect to, and they never seem to really get that. It feels lonely and pretty isolating, especially when you are alone in a brand new country without a group of friends yet. But remember, it’s not because they don’t love you still. It just seems hard to “keep up” with you while you are abroad. They assume that you are busier than you actually are, and for that reason, initiating a conversation seems like more work than they “have time” for, when really you are checking Facebook frequently and even hoping for a little bit of contact with friends and family.
2. Everyone thinks you are doing more things than you actually are.
Though you are having fantastic times in your country of choice, you’re probably not doing amazing and adventurous things every single moment of every day. You live and study in this place for months; odds are, you have more down time than either you or they expect, which can be difficult to convey to those back home without sounding totally lame. After all, they are “so proud” of you, and expecting “great things” from your “life changing experience” – you are doing great things; you are learning every day; but when people ask you how the country is, it is sometimes hard to tell them the truth… you’re just not that busy being amazing 24-7! Just know that you don’t have to be. This experience is about you, not them or what they expect from you. Live it for yourself, however it may pan out, downtime and all.
3. Off days.
You love the city; you love where you’re living; you feel insanely lucky to be able to walk around and admire your surroundings each day; however, you don’t actually want to go out every day. This feels strange to realize once the day hits you when you just want to be lazy and stay in bed, maybe sleep for half the day. You may even beat yourself up about it for not wanting to get up and go explore and experience the world during your time abroad, and may feel like you are wasting precious time. Don’t feel guilty about this! It’s a normal part of study abroad. Just because you’re living in a different country doesn’t mean that you become immune to wanting rest days, or lazy days. You’re even allowed to feel strange, like you’re in a funk of sorts, and no matter what your roommate or friends encourage, you just don’t want to go out and be around people. You’re allowed to have them, these “off days.” You’re only human, after all.
4. You think you’ll never get your old life back.
You may feel as though you’ll never get your “old” life back when you situate yourself in this new country. Suddenly you see posts online about things happening while you are gone, and it dawns on you – life at school is very much still moving on without you. This is not to say that people will suddenly start forgetting you ever went to school there and friends won’t be there when you get back (which is what you fear secretly), and you logically know this; nevertheless, the notion eats away at you. You fall into a vortex of sorts where the world is new, you have almost started over with everything and there is a constant struggle to keep up with all the adaptations you’ve had to make in your life. This is also normal to worry about, you aren’t crazy. It may feel that way, but know that this anxious feeling will pass, and you’ll be back to the swing of things at home sooner than you know. Embrace being abroad while you are there. Most people only get to experience it once!
5. You feel, for the first time, conflicted with your nationality.
Being abroad exposes you to a completely new culture that you may know very little, if anything, about. Seeing the way a new country functions, and living with people who operate perfectly well under this other system of government, may arouse questions for you regarding your own nationality. You may have never thought to question your government or national identity until arriving in this new place. You may even feel conflicted about your upbringing, and see some grey areas in your own nationality that make you feel uneasy and unsure how to feel. This can cause pretty bad anxiety, considering that it is a bit of a crisis to realize, suddenly, that you feel so conflicted about systems that you have just operated under without question for your entire life. In extreme situations, others may even chastise you for “betraying” the ideals of your own country, or you may be afraid that others will do this. Remind yourself this: Questioning is good, it’s healthy, and an integral aspect of the abroad experience. Take comfort in knowing that this means you are growing as an individual, expanding your mind. So Keep Calm, and Question On.
6. You may be more excited to go home than you think you should be.
While friends may be preemptively missing the study abroad experience, you may be thrilled to return home. This may even feel “wrong” considering that the first few weeks you were probably so excited to be staying in your country of choice. Now that the program comes to a close, however, you find yourself looking at old pictures of friends, family, campus, or your hometown more and more as you approach the date of departure. You may even be calling home to talk to people more often than you have been simply because you are excited to see them again, or you may secretly need to reconfirm that they want you back as much as you want to be back. Don’t worry – home isn’t going anywhere! It’ll be there as soon as you step off the plane. Your country, however, is – try to take these last few weeks to appreciate it more than you ever have, even though you feel insanely ready to return home.
Despite these slightly negative aspects of studying abroad, try to gain a perception of your growth as you’ve been away. Acknowledge the accomplishments you’ve made! Reward yourself for coming abroad in the first place, and be happy that you took the leap. You’ve probably become a more intellectual, culturally experienced human being from your time abroad. Be grateful for that. After all, some people never have the opportunity or the courage to travel; you, brave and now-worldly you, have reached farther than most people ever will in a lifetime. Love the risk; love the nervousness; love yourself, and, for whatever it’s worth, love your experience abroad.