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Pros And Cons To Studying Abroad With Someone You Know

Studying abroad is an amazing opportunity, but it can also be a really scary thing to decide to do. Moving to a new country, far from home for a year or even for a semester alone is a nerve-racking idea for most people. My situation is a little different than most because I actually came to Italy with someone I’m really close to, my boyfriend Carson whom I had already been living with for a couple years. Before we left people had different opinions about us traveling together. Our parents were excited for us and happy we would have each other’s support through our journeys. The study abroad counselor gave us a spiel about how she “wouldn’t recommend it”, but we decided we to come together anyway and four months in we do not regret it. So, if you are someone looking into studying abroad and have a partner or friend that is thinking of applying to the same program here’s a list of my pros and cons of going abroad with someone you know…

Pros:

You show up with a support system:

My flight to Italy was horrible, I got so nauseous I had to wake up the old woman next to me every 30 minutes and run to the bathroom, (embarrassingly I did not make it the first time). Having someone with me on the flight was definitely nice. When we first arrived in Italy we stayed at a hotel with other students that would attend our school. I was roomed with some girls I had never met. It being our first few nights in Florence I had a really hard time having to stay with people I didn’t know. The time change and excitement/nerves made it hard to sleep and it felt like I lied there awake with nothing to do forever.

Luckily for me, when I got up in the morning Carson was there to get breakfast with and my life felt somewhat normal while others were surrounded by strangers in a foreign place. After a couple days here they handed out questionnaires for us to all interview each other and see who we might be able to live with but we didn’t need to worry about it because we already had each other (some of the roommate pairings that came from that day have not worked out so well).

You have someone to do things with:

Of course many people have made friend groups by now, but not everyone as well as others. I have talked to a few people that feel like everyone “cliqued up” the first few weeks and they ended up on the sidelines. Some people like to go out alone and travel by themselves, personally I hate to do almost anything alone and I don’t hardly ever have to because if I’m not hanging out with a friend I made in the program, I have someone here that I know wants to do things with me whether it’s grocery shopping, taking a trip to a new country over the school break or sitting around at the apartment wasting time.  

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You have a lot less homesickness:

Culture shock affects everyone in some way when studying abroad but I think that the hardest part for everyone is being away from people they love. Of course I miss my mom and friends frequently, but before I studied abroad Carson and I had already moved away from home and had our own place. I am used to having a life with him and not seeing my mom all of the time, and that helps. When homesickness does strike, it’s amazing to have someone from home to help you get through it.

You have backup in desperate times:

There have been times in the past four months when both of us have had to borrow money from each other because our transfer didn’t go through in time or we didn’t have our wallet on us. Someone you’re already close to is a lot more willing and happy to help you out with bills and groceries than a roommate you met a month back. We’ve both also been sick at some point and being sick, alone and far away from home is a bummer. It’s great to have someone to run to the store or bring you water and snacks when you’re not feeling well.  

studying abroad with someone you know - sick

Cons:

Possibility of having a falling-out or breaking up:

I had a friend that studied abroad with her boyfriend and couple months in they ended up breaking up. The girl was so upset that she (understandably) wanted to go home. Thankfully her friends and roommates convinced her to not let him ruin this for her, although I’m not sure how much she enjoyed the next few months abroad while dealing with a break up. I also knew someone else who went with their best friend and got in an argument with them shortly after arriving and they didn’t speak again until they were back in California. It’s probably less devastating than a breakup, but I’m sure it was hard for both of them to think they had a support system with them and then lose it.  

It can be difficult to make more friends:

Although some roommate situations haven’t gone great, there are many that ended up in close friendships. Most people end up doing nearly everything with their roommates (including me). So when you’re the girl that has a boyfriend that you live with and all of the other girls live in groups together, it can be hard to make a solid friend group. I have made friends and I hangout with them sometimes but I don’t get invited to a lot of outings that other groups of roommates go on.

studying abroad with someone you know - alone

It can be harder to get immersed:

One of the biggest points of study abroad is not only to enjoy yourself and travel, but to get immersed in the city and culture you live in. Going out alone or with friends that you don’t cling to can help you meet locals which will help you learn a lot about a place and can make you practice the language. In my case I tend to go out with Carson and sit in a corner talking to him all night, which I love, but neither of us are getting any better at Italian by doing that.

In the end everyone will have an opinion about whether or not you and your partner or best friend should be going to the same program abroad. In fact, people in my program that I’m friends with now told us that when they heard there was a couple here some of them thought that was a really stupid idea but after getting to know us changed their mind. You really have to weigh out your own pros and cons and decide what situation will give you the study abroad experience you want to have, whether you’re bravely going into it on your own, or entering the experience with someone you want to share it with.

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Emily

Emily grew up in California and is enrolled at CSU Monterey Bay where she majors in Human Communication with a concentration in Pre-Law. Emily's current adventure is studying abroad in Florence, Italy for nearly a year.


One comment

  1. For me, it was amazing to have a support system. I found it really difficult to adapt to my new environment so having my friend with me was great…but you’re right, its a double-edged sword. Not so much in my first semester (because there were a whole bunch of people that didn’t know one another) but definitely in my second, I started to notice that I interacted a lot less with others and even less with locals. It’s the best thing if you can strike a balance over how much time you spend with who!

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