Study Abroad Isn’t Always Easy, But It’s Worth It

When you think of studying abroad, you think of seamlessly exploring new places. You think of endless sunny days, charming people and amazing food.

While this can be a fitting description for some days, there are a lot of other aspects students don’t really consider before they study abroad. There are challenges you might need to overcome. If you embrace these challenges, instead of walking in to a new place blindly, your study abroad experience will be much more enjoyable.

For instance, you won’t experience a lot of the same luxuries that you do back in the United States. In my Barcelona apartment, there isn’t a machine dryer for your clothing. You have to either walk your clothing items to a laundry mat or you need to hang them up on a clothing line. Obviously this is no huge inconvenience, but it’s something that is simply different that you have to overcome during your time abroad.

You also might not be able to drink the tap water. In Barcelona, the tap water is luckily safe to drink. However, the water contains different minerals than in the United States. This might cause your body to react differently to the water.

Language barriers are another challenge you will have to face while abroad. Much of the time, people will not speak your language. In order to communicate, you might need to learn a few phrases in the language of the country you are studying in. If you are traveling between multiple countries, it can be even more confusing. While I am based in Spain, I travelled to France for a weekend. In France, I kept greeting people in Spanish on accident, as I was just used to speaking that language when someone did not speak English.

A lot of the food you find in a foreign country might be amazing, but some of it you just won’t like. Once when I was traveling in China, I lived off of graham crackers, peanut butter and cliff bars for the week because i didn’t like much of the traditional food they served. In Barcelona, I luckily don’t have that problem, but it is still something to consider and plan for.Additionally, you will actually have to study. They don’t call it “study” abroad for nothing. There might be days where you need to stay behind from your group to study for a quiz or finish a presentation. This might seem like a bummer or a waste of the little time you have in your host city. You need to remember that is why you are abroad — to study.

All of this information might seem like a downer, but I swear to you, it isn’t. Every little cultural difference and struggle just makes your experience that much more genuine. In a new country, you shouldn’t be as comfortable as you are at home. You should learn how to adjust to a different culture. Every little inconvenience opens your eyes. If the only difference between being abroad and being home is what you see around you, then that isn’t a worthwhile experience. Whether you are having to squat in a Chinese bathroom or hang your laundry on your balcony like the locals, you are experiencing a new culture. Embrace it. Not everyone is lucky enough to travel and live in a different country. It might be hard sometimes, but the views make it all worth it.

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