Ask Yourself These Questions Before Studying Abroad
“When I was 23, I had already traveled a lot and I thought I could be comfortable everywhere… but my first days in Thailand were really hard because of the heat, the jet-lag, I was tired and so on. Above all, I couldn’t find anything that looked occidental in a far suburb of Bangkok where I was staying. Even speaking English was pointless. I didn’t find my bearings, I felt lost and I felt bad. Eventually, I managed to get through this experience and it made me grow up.”
These words are from my mom. This is one of the several stories I’ve heard when things do not go as expected. I gathered them as well as my own experience to suggest you 4 questions to ask yourself before going abroad.
“AM I TRULY READY?”
Am I ready to live so far away from home? Depending on your destination, the evaluation of the cultural gap based on testimonies from other students is important. “Studying abroad” means CHANGING and MAKING EFFORTS. You can’t go there and live your life just like you do at home. Are you ready for that? If you feel like the cultural gap will be way too big for you in the country you chose but you still want to study abroad, you should find another country whose culture is more similar to your home culture. Also, it’s not going to be “la vie en rose” everyday – do you know yourself enough to beat the blues and keep up the positivity and your motivation? If you do (of course, you’ll get better at it), then let’s do this! Stepping outside of your comfort zone will be challenging but super rewarding (my mother is still proud)!
“WHAT IF A RELATIVE DIES?”
I know, it’s not a happy thought, but it’s something you need to think about. Do I have enough money to go back home in case of an emergency? Do I want to go back if this happens? What if it happens during the exams period? and so on… The death of a relative is already a hard time and it might subvert you even more if you haven’t thought about it before. If you plan ahead, it will make things far easier for you in case you DO need to go home. So, if it happens to you, you could already have in mind the name of a fellow-student who would agree to inform you of what’s happening in campus, to take notes for you in class, to check your apartment, etcetera. These incidents are unpredictable – but with a little bit of thought ahead of time you can save yourself stress. It’s also better to leave your country without any resentment which could cause regrets.
“WHAT ABOUT MY RELATIONSHIP?”
“What about the distance?”. If you’re in a relationship you should definitely talk about your status before going abroad. Make things clear! Above all, make sure you consider both sides of the situation from the perspective of both the one who leaves and the one who stays. If you decide to stay together, then you can pick a weekly day to skype, a time to chat, when you’ll have the opportunity to see each other again, what you both expect of each other, etc. You won’t be able to live in two countries at the same time and trying would lead you not to enjoy your time abroad as much as you can.
“WHAT DO I EXPECT FROM THIS EXPERIENCE?”
What are my goals?, How studying abroad will affect me? Write down a bucket list of all the things you would like to achieve during your time abroad (be realistic). If you are an exchange student it’s a little harder to write a bucket list because of other considerations (if you’re in a host family for example) but it’s still great to have little goals to reward yourself. Think about the language, personally, I’ve written that at the end of March, I MUST NOT make any more mistakes in Italian conjugation so I’m getting closer to my final goal: to reach the level C1/C2 this summer. You can set goals on absolutely everything: to spend more time with your host brother, to visit new places, to take part in your city run, to get a better grade than your classmates… If you can’t keep a diary everyday (me neither), then you should write once a month about how you feel, what you’ve ticked off your bucket list, what is happening generally and the funny episodes of your month (my favorite). You could record yourself every month to hear how your accent is improving or take selfies to see how your style is changing (being abroad can influence a lot). You will thank yourself so much for doing this because you’ll be able to take a step back from this experience and see how you’ve moved on throughout your time abroad.