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The Abroad Option

- Alex

Thinking about studying abroad? While to some it may seem like a no-brainer to spend a semester studying somewhere else besides one’s home university, others may need a little convincing. As a recent abroad alumna, I can honestly say that it was the most fulfilling experience of my life thus far and I encourage all those considering the abroad option to keep on considering. Here are a few common concerns with some seasoned advice from myself and peers who have also spent more than a few weeks in a foreign country.

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Q: What if I’m homesick? Four months is a long time to be away from home!

A: Yes, four months can either seem like eternity or it can fly by in a second. Homesickness is a common concern and is entirely valid. Many study abroad offices have sessions for learning how to cope with these issues and have many resources available. Often, when one travels for an extended period of time, the initial phase may seem too-good-to-be-true (commonly referred to as the “honeymoon phase”) but it is quickly followed by an intense period of homesickness. It will likely happen, but for most, it passes quickly once one develops a routine, schedule, and sense of comfort in a new place.

 

Q: Is culture shock real?

A: Culture shock often occurs when one is a culture very different from their own. The common luxuries of home that we take for granted seem necessary when we’re suddenly in a place without them. Culture shock is best dealt with by finding some similarities from home. If you miss your morning cup of coffee, find a nice place for coffee or the local version of coffee in your new locale. It is also best dealt with by shifting your perspective. Instead of thinking all new things are “weird” or “bizzare,” try to see them as unique and ways for you to learn more about a new place.

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Q: What is this “reverse culture shock” I hear of?

A: Culture shock’s evil twin, reverse culture shock, is a mean version of this type of experience when one returns to their home country. Old ways of living, material objects, the pace of life, all can seem strange when one has been somewhere very different for a while. The traveler may feel out of place and confused in his or her own culture, which is not the best feeling. This is often cured by visiting places and people at home that the traveler loves. Both forms of culture shock will pass eventually, one just has to be conscious of their affect.

 

Q: What are the benefits of going abroad? What will I get in insert-exotic-country-name-here that I couldn’t get at home?

A: It’s a big big world out there, and having a small worldview is often limiting in this ever-globalizing world. By getting out there, exploring, and seeing what the world has to offer, we get the chance to be more informed, aware, and active global citizens. Every town, every city, every country has something unique to offer to new-comers and unless we take time to really get to know a new place, we’ll never know what we’re missing. So take the plunge, you’ll be glad that you did.

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