One month, 10 lessons

10 things learned in a month of study abroad
– a not at all comprehensive list by me –

1. Flying with family is infinitely easier (in a multitude of ways) than flying solo with a bunch of strangers.
You can sleep on the shoulders of your family. That doesn’t quite fly with most strangers…

2.  Music is a powerful stress reliever.
But sometimes, listening to top 40 music from your home country will either

  • a- make you really nostalgic and sad OR
  • b- remind you of fun times back home (which oftentimes inevitably leads to “a”).

3. There’s nothing quite like flying over a country at daybreak.
The sun is coming, you know it and slowly the dark mass under the wings of the plane blinks to life.

4. Homesickness will wear off (eventually).
Scout’s honor. It takes on average a week for most people (me included).

5.  Number 4 comes true quicker once you realize you are not alone.
I have a group of 60 people to commiserate and rejoice with but if your trip is a solo expedition, blogs and books about other people’s experience are also super comforting (which holds true even with a large group).

6. Not sticking out as a foreigner is an art.
In the beginning, keep your head down, observe and follow the lead of locals your age.

7. Don’t try to mimic your life back home.
A new country means a new culture and a new time table. School hours, after-school activities, homework time and meal times vary from country to country. I believe in always keeping a snack and some work handy.

8. Study abroad, not party abroad.
Don’t forget that a large aspect of study abroad is the scholastic component. Work hard, play hard applies especially well.

9. Getting lost can be both a blessing and a curse.
Aimless wandering is a great way to explore a new city and really familiarize yourself with your new home. However, as someone who has been hopelessly lost before, I can attest to the fact that it can be slightly intimidating. Not only are you in a foreign country but oftentimes there’s a language barrier as well. Don’t freak out, and always remember that even the experiences that seem harrowing at the time turn out fine eventually (plus they make for great stories).

10. “Me-time” can be the difference between a strained and fantastic host family relationship.
Being in a new country comes with culture shocks and adapting to a new routine, new surrounding and new language can often be quite tiring and stressful. It’s important to take time to reflect and unwind by yourself but not at the expense of interacting with other people.

More tidbits of newly accumulated knowledge to come as my journey continues.

(cross posted from my piece on Huffington Post Teen)


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