10 Things I learned from Studying Abroad

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Today marks 2 months of being back in the states since my study abroad experience in London. My time abroad taught me so much and is an experience I’ll never take for granted. I thought I would compile a list of all the things studying abroad taught me to help other people thinking of studying abroad or if you went abroad and want to reminisce with me.

1.  You can live without being constantly connected. 
When I was getting ready to go abroad I had a lot of planning to do. One of those things was to unlock my phone so I could put a UK SIM card in and have a UK phone number. AT&T provided to be very unhelpful and I ended up having to use an old already unlocked phone as my UK phone. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I never used my UK phone because all my music, messaging apps, and camera were on my main phone, which I could still use in wifi. I loved walking the streets of London and taking everything in without being constantly on my phone. It was nice being in the dark for a few hours not worrying about what to post to Instagram the second you take the picture or post to Facebook. It gave me time to just think and be by myself or have good conversations with the people I was with instead of all of us in a line staring at our phones. I have definitely been more phones off since I’ve been back and it has definitely been a good thing.

2. You don’t have to plan everything. 
A lot of little excursions during my abroad break consisted of me and my friend planning where we were going and where we were staying. Other than that we kind of just winged it. And it was great. There were no high expectations or let downs if the weather wasn’t perfect or an attraction was full. Hell, I went to Paris for less than 24 hours without a single thing planned and it was amazing, tiring but amazing.

3. You learn about independence. 
When you get off the plane in a new city, you don’t have your parents to rely on. You get to your empty dorm where you don’t even have a roll of toilet paper. You have to do and get everything yourself. You learn to navigate a city you don’t know, get all the essentials you need (even a new cell phone number) with out any help. You don’t need to ask permission to do do anything or go anywhere. You learn to make the right decisions like eat 3 healthy meals a day (or just eat junk food all day :)). Overall, Studying abroad lets you learn to be independent that you carry with you back home.

4. Not to be afraid to do things alone
Everyone is so afraid to go someplace alone. They don’t want people to think they’re a loner or have no friends. I learned that if you keep that mentality you will miss out on so much you want to do. Of course if you have a friend to do these things with its great. But if I want to climb to the top of the monument in London and everyone else wasn’t feeling it, I did it myself. If I wanted to go to some museum and everyone already went, I did it myself. If I waited for someone to go with me so I didn’t look weird I would have missed out on a lot of things I wanted to see.

5. There’s no one quite like your study abroad friends. 
You might go into it think you’ll have no friends and you’ll have to do all your traveling alone (I sure did!). But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Everyone is in the same boat as you, knowing no one and knowing nothing about your new city. Finding your way through a new city and new culture is a sure fire way to create an instant bond with the other study abroaders.

6. Don’t take the experience for granted. 
Once you get comfortable in your new city you start to forget that you are actually abroad and treat the city as your own. While that is a good thing I probably spent way too many lazy days that I could have spent enjoying different parts of the city.

7. Reverse homesickness is a thing. And it sucks. 
When you create a whole new life in a magical city you don’t really want to go back to boring suburbia where there is absolutely nothing to do except watch Netflix and be bored. Of course I wanted to see my family and friends but the thought of leaving this place was sickening and you bet that the first few weeks of being home were horrible, seeing people you haven’t seen in awhile was awkward because they just don’t understand how much studying abroad has changed you. You yearn to do those simple tasks with your flatmates that wasn’t even a big deal in the moment. Although over time the homesickness subsides, it never leaves. I will always want to make my way make to London, the city I called my Home for 5 months.

8. You can get by without a common language. 
I did a bit of traveling during my time abroad and went to places where English isn’t the main language. While English is pretty universal and we found a lot of people who could speak it there were many times I needed to do a lot of pointing and hand gestures to communicate. You might get lost here and there but its not the end of the world and those hand gestures might also get you to the places you are looking for. Overall, don’t let language dictate where you travel.

9. You can’t do everything you plan. 
When I left Boston in January I had a long list of all the places I wanted to go and see. I probably had 15 countries I wanted to visit while over there. Well, I made it to 6 which is still amazing! I didn’t make it to Ireland or Sweden ( I really wanted to go to those places because that’s my ancestry) or Amsterdam and Barcelona. But I also went to some unexpected places not on my list like Budapest and Lisbon and those were two amazing places that I’m dying to go back to. Within the first few weeks I knew I wouldn’t make it everywhere because 1) traveling in Euorpe may be cheaper, it’s not 15 countries cheap and 2) I came to London for a reason and it wasn’t to leave it every weekend.

10. Studying abroad will change you forever. 

Between the people you meet and the things you learn about yourself abroad you are sure to come back a different version of yourself, a better version. I’m not saying you’ll suddenly have a different personality but for me it changed my confidence, independence and how I saw my future.
I hope this was helpful to people thinking of studying abroad or at least was a good read!
See you soon,
x Emily

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