Growing up, I had always dreamed to study abroad.

Honestly, it was one of the deciding factors for me on whether to go to college or not.

Which yes, seems silly, and probably wasn’t something I should base four additional years of education and thousands of dollars in debt on. But at seventeen, your decision-making skills aren’t exactly top-notch.

The idea of living and studying in a foreign country was romanticized within me since day one of watching the iconic Lizzie McGuire movie.

I was ready to go abroad, meet my Paolo, and become an Italian pop-star.

Things to consider before you study abroad

Okay.. maybe not exactly that, but you get the point! The idea of it all was completely built up in my head. I didn’t even care where I studied abroad, I just knew I wanted to have the experience.

The time eventually came where I was able to fulfill my dreams of studying abroad. In hindsight, I am very glad I took the the opportunity to have this cultural experience.

However, there were certainly some mistakes I made along the way. Here are a few things I would tell myself, or anyone I knew about to embark on this journey.

1. Studying Abroad is a challenge.

Living and studying abroad is a wonderful experience, but it’s not always easy.

Relocating to a foreign country for an extended period of time is a hard thing to do.

You’re leaving your friends, family, pets, and there will be many things you will miss out on. It’s a matter of missing out on some things and trading your home experiences for an experience of the unknown.

2. Academics are a factor – among many others.

There are several factors that go into the decision process of studying abroad, many of them being out of your control. Your age, school’s connections, costs, and what you’re studying are just to name a few.

These were certainly things I didn’t think about when I filled out my study abroad application.

Oh that’s even another factor – an application process! You can have everything you think you need to study abroad, but could still get your application denied for not being a proper fit.

3. You may not get everything you want.

As I just mentioned, there are so many factors that go into the decision making process of studying abroad.

Decisions are being made by you, your college, and your financial situation.

In the end, your study abroad location will probably be a compromise. Just be happy that you are going to experience an entirely different life and focus on what you will gain from it.

4. Go with an open mind.

My study abroad experience was great, but I’d be lying if I said it was exactly what I expected.

My expectations were simply too high. Problems will arise during your experience, and it’s up to you to not let them ruin your time.

Try new foods, make new friends, and stop comparing everything to your home country.

It’s not like home, because it isn’t home, and you shouldn’t have come abroad if you were seeking comfort.

5. Spend time in your study abroad city.

This was also a mistake I made. I’m an American, and flights are insanely expensive in the US. So what I was most excited about studying in Europe were the wicked cheap flights, making ample possibilities of new countries to explore.

This resulted in me drastically overlooking the beautiful city I was studying in.

I can’t even put a simple tour guide together for my study abroad city, because I hardly spent any free time exploring it. I took it for granted and was constantly looking for other places to travel to on the weekends.

It’s great to take advantage of cheap fares and explore other places during your time abroad. But there were many times where I’d miss out on college outings because I opted to travel on the weekends.

Which in the end resulted in less friendships gained. Something to think about before you buy that Ryan Air ticket!

Studying abroad really is what you make of it. Before you begin on this life changing journey, I urge you to consider what you are wanting to gain from your time abroad.

No matter what, I can almost guarantee that you’ll be happy with this decision and will learn so much about other cultures, and yourself.

If your university doesn’t offer study abroad opportunities, there are plenty of outside companies who offer educational trip. These trips may even transfer over as elective credit hours to your major – it never hurts to check!

IES Abroad

CIEE

Things to consider before you study abroad

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