Like many of my peers, I made the tragic mistake of studying abroad my third year of college. No matter what anyone said, no matter how much it cost, I was adamant to go; to live, to see, and experience. Years later my heart still longs for travel, for a foreign city, to sink into a culture and a language that is not my own. An ethnic suburb of Los Angeles doesn’t count. But there’s no going back once it’s over and the repercussions are torturous.
So before you think about studying abroad, consider the ramifications of your experience. You will be in danger of becoming a Class A vagabond. Wanderlust will strike a chord in your soul and you’ll never be able to get away from it. Those horror stories from people who went abroad? Take that into consideration. Don’t go. Here are my reasons why:
- Studying abroad challenges you. Living in a foreign city forces you out of your comfort zone. You have to adapt to a new environment and a new culture. It awakens an adventurous spirit and makes you grow and stretch in ways you never thought necessary. It’s not necessary. Stay in the comfort of America where we have everything from sea to shining sea.
- You’ll be forced to meet new people. Depending on where you go, you might be surrounded by accents, foreign tongues, and different cultures. You will most likely meet amazing people that you will never get to talk to in the same capacity ever again. Missing those people will be unbearable. Do you really want to subject yourself to that?
- The food will all be foreign. Authentic sushi in Japan? Tacos in Mexico? Cheese and wine in France? Coffee and panini in Italy? Why bother when you have the best of everything in good ol’ dependable America? We’ve got McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Burger King. What more could you need?
- Living with a host family will change your perspective on the meaning of “home.” There’s no better way to immerse yourself into another culture than to live with the natives. Having authentic home-cooked meals, learning how to live and communicate with the family that houses you, and sharing stories and life experiences with your host family is all part of it. It also means giving a piece of your heart away to people you may never see again. Why would you do that to yourself??
- You’ll lose friends. All of the friends who decided not to study abroad or who didn’t have time to go overseas will regret asking you, “How was your time abroad?” They’ll inch away from you until you realize you haven’t talked to them in months, but you’ll be too busy crying over pictures and souvenirs. You will inevitably grow closer to the friends who can share that experience with you or who don’t mind you talking nonstop about travel.
- You’ll become that person. Particularly for people who study abroad in Europe (but not limited to), you will come back to America acting like a native of whatever country you were in. Most everyone will consider you pretentious, though hardly anyone will call you that to your face. I forced my family to take tea with me as soon as I got back. I also introduced them to the delights of Brie cheese and a good wine. Abroad changes you. Refer to reason #1.
- Strange things will trigger an emotional response: a travel magazine in the doctor’s office; a shot of espresso in a form-fitting cup; any rom-com set in a different country (The Lizzie McGuire Movie—seriously every time); pictures of other people going abroad; iTranslate; the National Geographic; postcards—just to name a few. You can forget about living a normal life ever again.
- Many of your sentences will begin with, “when I was in [insert country here]…” Your friends and family will nod and smile but nobody really gets it like you do and it can’t be helped. You’ll probably start putting up pretentious pictures of your time abroad on Facebook or Instagram with “#tbt” or “#nofilter” and wonder why no one can understand how amazing and beautiful these scenes are.
- Moving on will be hard. Eventually you’re going to have to go back to your old life and tuck away all the trinkets and memories and look at pictures you have as if they were somehow Photoshopped to have you in it. When looking at said pictures, you may cry a little.
- You will never be able to recreate that same abroad experience. It will be more expensive, more touristy, and more restricted as to where you can or cannot go. You will probably leave a piece of your heart in that time and place that you will never be able to get back.
Studying abroad is a haunting experience, one you won’t be able to shake off easily, if ever. You won’t be missing much if you take my advice except a life-changing adventure you will never be able to replicate. But if all of these reasons are not enough to deter you, then go on. Do it. I dare you.
(If you really want to torture yourself despite my nice little list, check out my travel blog Disturbing the Universe that I kept for the Associated Colleges of the Midwest during my five month journey in Europe.)