Don’t get me wrong—Studying abroad is one of the most incredible, memorable, and fortunate experiences you will ever partake in! Nonetheless, there are quite a few foreign inconveniences that will make you even more grateful for things you take advantage of stateside. You can’t even fathom how much you’ll come to appreciate ice or people who don’t stare like you have three eyeballs.
1. Feeling Skinny
Sure, you think the daily sightseeing tours and constant trekking across Europe will keep you in tip-top shape. However, regardless of whatever convoluted calorie counter you convince yourself is accurate overseas, an hour walking around the Coliseum will NOT make up for the three cannolis, Nutella-stuffed pastry, and four scoops of gelato you already consumed for breakfast.
2. Free bathrooms
If public places in America tried to charge you to use the toilet, rest assured that somebody with a bladder issue would raise a lawsuit before you got the chance to surrender a buck. Your choices in Europe typically consist of a free porta-potty-like contraption on the train that sloshes way too close to the lid or a slightly more acceptable hole-in-the-ground that costs a pretty penny.
3. Dependable WiFi
What’s the point of backpacking across Europe if you can’t Instagram your coffee from Vienna or immediately change your profile pic to your beauty shot in front of the Eiffel Tower? Kidding, obviously, but while the electronic-free environment that will dominate most of your time in Europe is a welcomed break initially, the reemergence of reliable and free Internet upon returning stateside is certainly a refreshing commodity.
4. Your Favorite Foods
Although the ceaseless access to delicious baguettes, top-notch pizza, and cinnamon chocolate crepes surely won’t leave you starved, there will come the time when you’ll be willing to pass up an authentic Italian feast for a single Chick-Fil-A nugget or bag of Goldfish.
5. Being Up-to-Date on World Affairs
The combination of limited social media access, television channels in entirely foreign languages, and (probably) no daily newspapers means that it will take until returning home to find out something as big as the Turkey riots are happening, or, more importantly, that Cory Monteith died (true story). And, worst of all, you won’t even know about Beyonce’s new album until everybody else is already sick of hearing the songs.
6. No-Smoking Areas
I’m perfectly okay with capris, speedos, and unshaved armpits being “cultural” differences (well not perfectly okay, but whatever), but I’m kind of not okay with hacking up a lung and dying of second-hand smoke on each and every street corner.
While superior public transportation and the ability to walk basically everywhere is convenient, there are times when you’ll crave the freedom that comes with driving your own car to whatever destination you desire. Or, if you truly European-ize, a vespa!
8. Electrical Outlets
Oh, the unparalleled joy of being able to straighten your hair at a temperature above 250 degrees and without the fear of getting electrocuted, starting a fire, ruining your appliance, or all of the above.
9. Free Water
Water fountains are altogether nonexistent and it takes considerable effort to find other forms of free water that taste decent/won’t leave you counting down the hours to see if you bypassed the typical time period for poisoning to take effect. And, while we’re on the subject, receiving a few ice cubes in your drink is a surprising rarity in the same countries that don’t offer an ounce of air conditioning anywhere.
Discovering universal forms of communication and testing out the miniscule amount of Spanish you remember from middle school is fun until you really just need to find a freaking bathroom or decipher what you’re ordering as the French waiter is making quite a lot of vulgar and irate hand gestures at your stupid English questions.
11. American Currency
Don’t even think about tossing a European coin into the Trevi because you probably just lost $5. Further warning: Constantly trying to equate everything to USD can result in some surprising bank statements upon returning, particularly if arithmetic isn’t your strong suit. Another warning: splitting checks at restaurants is typically not a “thing” and will result in every member of your group constantly owing every other member of your group some odd amount of random coins that will break your wallet’s zipper.
12. Going to the Movies
Signs will be up everywhere for the latest installment of Twilight/Hunger Games/Harry Potter/etc. because Europeans seem to be weirdly obsessed with the same things that Americans are weirdly obsessed with. Go figure. But going to an English movie theater probably won’t be a planned day trip in between tours of the Vatican and downtown Pisa.
13. Relatively Reliable Airlines
To be fair, however, everyone who has ever studied abroad anywhere did warn you about RyanAir. You just forgot about those warnings when a flight to Ireland pops up for less than you paid for a Swiss McDonald’s meal and remembered those warnings when you were dropping 500 feet in approximately 5 seconds.
14. Store Hours
Sure, maybe we’re spoiled by the ability to chow down on Waffle House at 3 a.m., but is it too much to ask to get a cup of coffee at 4 in the afternoon? I’m down for the worldwide acceptance of the “siesta,” but going from unlimited access in America to a town where everything shuts down at precisely the time you’re craving a cup of gelato is not particularly convenient.
15. Personal Space and People Who Wear Deodorant