10 Things People Don’t Tell You about Studying Abroad

As some of you may have noticed, 1st on Trend went dormant for a little bit. That was because I did the best thing (and most likely the best thing I will ever do in college) that I could have possibly done for myself– I studied abroad. Unlike a majority of colleges, my university requires all of us to study abroad at some point in our four years here– whether it be for a few weeks during the summer or an entire semester, everyone who currently attends Susquehanna University has been required to go abroad.

I spent the months of August to December in London. I was enrolled at Regents University London– I lived in the dormitories on the American College’s campus in the beautiful Regents Park off of Baker Street– and I can say without a doubt that it was the best experience of my life. I traveled to Cardiff, Edinburgh, the Highlands of Scotland, Oxford, Bath, Brighton, Stonehenge, Paris (EURODISNEY!!!!), Amsterdam, and Kephalonia (a small island off the coast of Greece). I saw about 10 castles and/or royal country houses for a class (my inner art history nerd flourished). I attended London Fashion Week– I sat in on the Fyodor Golan show– the London Edge convention, and London Comic-Con (where I met Andrew Lee Potts!!!). But most importantly– and the reason for why I decided to not blog while I was there– I figured out more of who I am as a person. I learned how big of an influence art is in my life; that I love traveling to new places; that I loved hanging out on the weekends with friends who were hardly “posh” (except for one ginger); and that I met some of the best people in my life while out there.

This blog is a list of 10 things I wish someone had told me before I left for London. This list pertains to the before, during, and aftermath of your adventures. So, here goes:

  1. You will find yourself
    1. This is very much a cliche belief– but it is very true. Until you are abroad, you won’t even understand some of the small, unique things you love. Like, small waffles from various vendors in the streets, or shopping in the Turkish markets, or negotiating over prices of food and cool stuff in the Camden Lock. You will find out that you are very passionate about things– whether it be art or food or foreign television or sports– and you will thrive on it and find a community that loves you for it (and people who won’t vocally judge you for it too much).
  2. You will try things you never thought you would
    1. What you never thought you would be seeing about 6 million bodies under the city of Paris? Or eating actual Italian food in Italy? Or swimming in the clearest water of the Mediterranean? You will do things big and small no matter where you go. Whether it is trying food you have only ever heard of on Bizarre Foods or exploring an ancient castle or taking photos of the canals around the Red Light District of Amsterdam, there are things you will never have thought of yourself doing. And the best part about all of it is that you don’t even realize you did something like this until you are already done with it.
  3. You will make some of the best friends of your life out there
    1. You will meet some of the most amazing people when you travel abroad. Whether they be American, European, African, Asian, South American, whatever, they will be some of the most unique and amazing friends of your life. They will add a new spice to your life and conversations and make everything seem more exciting (especially if you both are doing something new together).
  4. You will miss said friends insanely when you return to the States and realize they aren’t down the hall from you anymore
    1. One problem with those amazing friends– after the semester or year is done, you all go back to far off places. And there is nothing more rough in life than when you realize you can’t just walk down the hall to show one of your best friends an amazing video– because she is now back home…in Missouri. Or that you can’t just call your friend and ask to get lunch with them because they are back at their school in Connecticut. Or that there are no more random photos with some of your friends because they are either in California, New Jersey, Massachusetts or (worst of all) still back where you were studying abroad. Essentially, a majority of the people that you become friends with abroad require extensive driving or a plane ride in order to see them in person again.
  5. You will buy clothes and stuff that your European friends think are awesome and you will feel silly wearing them back in the States
    1. So you bought that epic jacket, shoes, jewelry, etc. while you were abroad? That is awesome– until the people back at home stare at you for wearing it. Your excuse will be that your friends from Europe/Asia/Africa/Wherever You Went loved it and thought it was so cool or that everyone there was wearing it. Some people will love that, others not caring. But you know what, those are unique, amazing things that you sure can’t get back here in the States. So, you know what, wear those epic clothes and things you brought back– they are signs you went someone much more interesting and life changing than where you currently are.
  6. You will miss some completely random things when you come back.
    1. Walkers. Just Walkers.
  7. You will reference adventures that your friends back at home won’t understand
    1. Remember that time we went to the greyhound races and walked along a highway and though an incredibly sketchy park in the middle of the night? …..Oh, wait, you weren’t there for that….
  8. You will wake up one morning and suddenly remember you aren’t abroad anymore
    1. Even after being back home for a month or more, there will be days you wake up and think you are abroad…until you open your eyes. There will be mornings this immediately depresses you. There will be mornings this makes you nostalgic. And there will be mornings you look up flights for that afternoon back to London. But this will work itself out over time– it is part of the readjusting process and will take time. Just be patient with it.
  9. Your data plan will be the most amazing feeling when you return
    1. The most euphoric feeling when you land back in the US? Having data again. Relying on inconsistent university wifi; signing up for random things and ads so you can use wifi for a glorious 15 minutes; getting angry when you are told you have to pay for wifi; and crying a little bit on the inside when the wifi goes out just as you were sending an important message. Being able to text people, call them, and message people when you don’t have wifi is a very relieving feeling.
  10. You won’t feel the same after– and you won’t realize it until you come back.
    1. The last and final thing that is that you will change when you go abroad. However, you won’t really realize it until you come back. People will say you look different (especially if you, let’s say, dye your hair purple while abroad) and you act different. You will slowly come to realize that being abroad changed you without you consciously being aware of it. You will feel restless not being able to travel everywhere anymore; or knowing you have to drive somewhere instead of having amazing public transportation; or that you can suddenly convert money in your head. It’s the little things– but they can add up to some amazing changes.

Was there anything you thought should make the list? Have you studied abroad? Plan on it or hoping to?