While living abroad for the past 4 months, I’ve had a lot of time to think about what things I wish I would’ve done and what things that I’m glad that I did do. To all of the future study abroad students, here are my top pieces of advice I would give to you in order to make your experience the best it can be.
My first piece of advice is to embrace the culture you are immersed in and try not to judge it. There will definitely be aspects of whichever country you choose that you dislike or find strange and different. Rather than judging these parts of the culture, you should try to understand why it may work better for them. In doing this, you can avoid a lot of negativity within your experience. Trying to fully embrace the changes you are experiencing can be frustrating but it is much easier if you try not to compare things to American culture.
Another thing that I’m so glad that I did was making friends from different countries and cultures. This was probably the aspect of my experience that made the biggest impact. I now have friends from Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, and the UK. Over the course of 4 months, we all learned so much about each others’ cultures and it was so cool to all come together and learn about French culture together. Becoming friends with other exchange students also helped with my feelings of homesickness because I could lean on them in times of need.
Something I wish I would’ve done better is researching and planning weekend trips more in advance so I could experience as much as possible. While I did visit many other countries and cities, a lot of the planning I did was very last minute which meant I maybe didn’t see all of the things I wanted to and travel expenses were pricier than they should’ve been. I made the mistake of thinking I had more time than I actually did. In reality, the time goes by way faster than you think it will. So my advice would be to do some research before you go, ask for recommendations on where to visit and start planning early!
My last piece of advice is to take lots of photos and try to journal as much as you can! You will experience so much while you are abroad so it is easy to forget some of the small details. I would recommend starting a photo sharing album and adding friends and family to it so they can see what you are up to. This made it much easier to keep in touch with everyone at home because it can get tricky with the time difference. Not only did it help me keep in touch with my loved ones, but now I have a separate photo album with my experiences from my journey for me to be able to look back at. Document as much as you can because this is a unique experience that you will definitely want to reminisce on.