What I Learned While Studying Abroad

I was abroad for 8 weeks (!!!) and so much happened, more than I could ever write about. There were good, bad, scary, and fun moments. I learned A LOT too, not just because I was taking classes, but because it was the first time I was ever in another country and I had to figure most of it out all by myself. So, for all of you who are thinking about traveling abroad, here are some important lessons that I learned:

1. You will get lost.
You will get lost A LOT, but that's okay. You'll find your way back and maps will be your best friend. Locals will also be very helpful, so don't be afraid to ask. Eventually, you'll know where you're going and maybe someone will ask you for directions. When you can answer them you'll feel like you've conquered the world (& you have, at least a new, little part of it).

2. It will be different & awkward.
"What will be awkward?" you ask. Everything. You're in a foreign place where they do some things, if not most things, differently than you are used to. Sometimes it's just inconvenient and other times (usually when interacting with other people) it is just so awkward (this is potentially just in my case, as I am hopelessly awkward).You'll learn from this too (traveling is always a learning experience) and you'll know how to avoid these situations in the future (hopefully).

3. Trying new things is always good, even when it's not.
Try all of the new things you possibly can. Even if you don't like it, you won't regret trying it. At least now you know that you don't like it. Go ahead, get those mushy peas with your chips, order the snails, and don't be afraid of the shrimp that still has legs and eyes.

4. You will be amazed.
I had wanted to go to Europe for as long as I can remember, so when it finally happened I wasn't sure everything could live up to my expectations. I was so wrong. No matter how much I had built something up in my head it was always 10x more beautiful and breathtaking in person when I could touch it and see it outside of a picture. Everything is different (better, in my opinion) in real life.

5. You will get homesick.
Going somewhere new without your family or your friends is pretty much guaranteed to make you homesick at least a little bit. There are so many new things to process at the same time and you will miss all of the familiar. Good thing it's 2015 and we have the internet. It's so easy to keep in contact with people while you're away with skype, facetime, facebook, and free texting apps. 

6. You won't want to leave.
Even though you'll get homesick, when it comes time to return home, you won't want to leave. You will fall in love with wherever you are and so many of the people you're with. When you get back you will miss so much (good and bad) about where you studied. Maybe you'll just have to go back soon. :)

Don't miss out on studying abroad while you're in university. There are probably so many reasons why you think you can't do it, but, trust me, you can. It may take a lot of work to make it possible, but it's not impossible. Talk to your school and see what they can do to help and what you need to do. You won't regret it.

- Jess


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