Real life lessons (not the sugar-coated kind) from a real life student’s abroad journey. Here are my 10 biggest take-away’s from my adventure of a lifetime.
1.) Your experience abroad will not be perfect… Of this I can absolutely promise you. You’ll have bad days and good ones, just like you do here at home. You will get homesick, you will get frustrated at various things, you’ll be put in situations you don’t like, and things will happen that you don’t understand. The abroad experience isn’t meant to be perfect, it’s meant to be an adventure. A learning adventure at that! Expecting perfection will only lead to you being let down. So take the good with the bad and know that it’ll all work out just fine.
2.) It’s entirely okay to feel like you don’t fit in. In fact, you’ll probably feel this way at least once or twice while abroad. You’ll make friends and you’ll meet people you really dislike. Regardless, try to be who you are, even if you’re not sure who that is yet. Do things that feel good and right to you and you’ll attract the right people.
3.) Your sense of style probably won’t be the same as the locals and you may stand out a bit more than you want to… But that’s okay! Just do you!
4.) This one is important. Your body and your brain WILL always tell you when you need a break. Listen to it.
5.) Budgeting your money will be super important. As much as you may want to try a new restaurant every night and buy every cute outfit you see, you have to know your financial limits. Don’t try to play catch-up if your friends are spending more money than you. They have what they have and you have what you have. No comparison necessary. Spend more money on experiences and less on things.
6.) Listen up!! Boys are boys and girls are girls, regardless of where you are in the world. A person is a person is a person, and I promise you that heartbreak exists across all culture lines. If you’re going abroad with the hopes of meeting someone, don’t try to meet them in a club. Or on tinder. Just don’t do it. If you want to meet a new and different person, try to do new and different things and you’ll inevitably meet new people.
7.) Set standards for yourself and stick to them. Seriously. Values are a beautiful thing. Know your own and live your life by them.
8.) Traveling while abroad is always an adventure. Always. New airports, new forms of transportation, language barriers, various forms of currency, travel companions… Any number of things can go wrong and I promise you at some point something will go wrong. Go with it! Every step along the way is part of the learning process. Patience is absolutely key: no matter what, take a breath and enjoy the ride!
9.) If you need help with something, ask. Don’t be embarrassed! People are way nicer and far more willing to help than you might think.
10.) Be. A. Sponge. You will learn more from the people around you than anything or anywhere else. I promise. But that’ll only happen if your ears are open and your heart is receptive to new ideas and opinions. Know what you believe but be open to learning new ways of thought.
Natalie is a senior at the University of Kentucky double majoring in Secondary English Education and English with a minor in Psychology. She studied abroad during her junior year in the beautiful London, England at King’s College.