Studying abroad whether you are in undergrad, or for a Master’s program provides a unique and unforgettable experience! That experience will come with memories, friendships, and moments captured that you will never forget.
But what about the challenges?
Studying and living abroad provides a number of challenges. One of the biggest challenges for most people who go abroad is the language barriers. Going to a new country where you do not know the language or where that language is not your main fluency is tough. It takes a lot to overcome this. Always try to study and familarize yourself with the language of the country you are going to and most definitely study the language while you are there. You might never become fluent but knowing how to accurately order food or ask for directions is more helpful than you can realize.
In most places you can get by with English as it is a very international language.
Another challenge is getting lost, it is bound to happen and often. And if you rely on public transportation expect delays, strikes, and most definitely you will forget your stop and not know where you are. If you are directionally challenged (like me) make sure to download apps that you can use (even without data) like Google Maps, or City Maps 2 Go. I cannot tell you how many times they have helped me out while getting lost in Italy, Germany, Paris, etc.
But also you can turn getting lost into an adventure, sometimes the best way to acclimate yourself to a city is to get lost and explore!
Another big learning curve or lesson is the culture. Now this is an ambiguous term, so maybe better would be to acclimate yourself with some of the major customs and way of doing things. There are always going to be some cultural norms that will be very different than the country you come from that will be odd, annoying, or frustrating because you just do not understand.
Learn to roll with it, take it as a learning lesson and use it to grow both personally and professionally.
In a new city or country please do not be afraid to ask for help, it is not easy trying to figure it all out on your own, use the tools and network you have to get accustom to your surroundings. Always be aware of your surroundings, many people get things stolen or they lose things, while being caught up in a new city. Understand that this may (and for some of you) will happen. Be prepared, it is part of the travel experience.
Always have a copy of all your ID’s and Cards saved at your apartment or where you are staying. It is a pain but having copies of everything could prove very beneficial.
Things like cues, vary from country to country. In Ireland every might get in a straight line to cue for the plane or to get food, where in Italy you just kind of get in a big group and work it out. It is always easy to hear about how amazing traveling and studying abroad it, and trust me it is. But understand that something will always go wrong, it won’t always go as planned, and that is okay. Realize that it is all part of the process. Learning to overcome these challenges will only make the memories sweeter, and the experience more memorable.
Be prepared to be uncomfortable, be open minded to learn new things, and be open to the world. Studying abroad is life changing and when you look back you will be thankful, but know that it is not easy. It only takes one bad experience to make you want to go back home, but if you prepare yourself and face these challenges head on, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish as a person.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.