If you’ve ever considered studying abroad, or even if you haven’t, you’ve probably read an article that lists the top ten reasons you should go abroad or even a list of things only people who have studied abroad will understand.
Before I left to live in Central America for 5 weeks I read countless articles to try to prepare myself for what I was about to be doing.
Of course once I was actually in Costa Rica I learned pretty quickly that many of those articles don’t explain the half of it.
Sure, I had a blast and I learned a lot. I have a nice little addition to my resume and I honestly fell in love with the country and I’ll probably keep telling stories about it until my brain doesn’t allow me to remember anymore.
I felt like I did a lot of myth busting to those articles but a lot of truths can be found as well.
This post is devoted to my first hand experience and some of the things I tend to tell people when they tell me they are considering a study abroad and they want to know the reality of it.
1. A comfort zone doesn’t exist
The faster you realize this the better off you’ll be. On my trip we were fortunate enough to have an orientation on the first day to break this news to us.
If you embrace the discomforts, mental and physical, you’re able to take in more and have a better time.
The beds aren’t always comfortable, air conditioning might not exist, you might end up a little lost in a city that you can’t really communicate in and you’re probably going to have strangers staring at you constantly because for once you’re the exotic looking person.
It’s all fine. You will survive.
2. You build strong friendships
Nothing says bonding like being in a country where you barely know the language.
But seriously, the first night my housemate and I were panicking because we could barely understand anything our host mom was saying to us. The struggle was really real.
Studying abroad makes you rely on each other in a way that you might not when you’re in the comfort of your own country.
The other students you travel with understand your culture, your viewpoints, and they get why you’re so emotional about missing your dog.
3. You see get to see how big and diverse the world is
Those people were living there before you and they’ll still be living there after you leave. Just because they aren’t living in your standards of happiness and comfort doesn’t mean that they aren’t doing just that.
It’s good to realize that you’re the strange one when you’re abroad. Don’t pity what you don’t understand.
4. It’s great for the soul-searching type
It’s virtually impossible to go abroad and not come back at least a little different.
Gaining new viewpoints, opinions and empathies are just a few of the more valuable things you’ll bring back with you.
Studying abroad helps put your life into perspective and really solidify what you want to do.
5. You learn how to adapt
Studying abroad taught me a whole new definition of the phrase “just roll with it.”
Their time might not be like your time.
Their goodhearted comments might not be like yours. (“Yes I know all the skin on my face is peeling it’s called a sunburn”)
Again, you’re the weird one in the country. It’s your job to adapt to them not the other way around.
6. Sometimes the food is gross but you’ll eat it anyway
Tacos in Costa Rica and tacos in Texas are two completely different things, the spaghetti was weirdly sweet and I never want to eat a papaya ever again.
For the sake of embracing new things, and not being incredibly rude, you’ll learn to smile and say thank you.
Apparently Americans are notoriously picky eaters. Don’t be one of those people.
7. You’ll miss really stupid things from home
Homesickness is inevitable.
On my five-week trip it hit all of us about three days before we returned home.
I had a craving for McAllister’s sweet tea almost the entire time I was abroad. And Blue Belle Ice cream. And I REALLY missed long hot showers. Obviously my priorities were all sorted out.
8. It’s weirdly affordable
In case you haven’t realized this yet, going to school in the states is really expensive.
My trip actually cost less for me to live in another country and take two classes than it would be for me to have stayed at home and take two hours at my university.
Cost shouldn’t hold you back from wanting to study abroad. The experience is worth every penny.
9. You’re probably still going to flock to people like you
When it comes down to it you might not always fully embrace the opportunities you have while studying abroad.
You’ll stick close to your classmates. You’ll seek out the English speakers wherever you go. When you take weekend trips you’ll almost always find yourself talking to the people who are traveling like you.
10. You’ll probably get very little sleep
And that’s ok.
You’re too busy having the time of your life.