This week I’m back in San Diego and enjoying the sunshine and seeing my students. Before a few left for their study abroad adventures, I was able to see them off. Hanging out with them and hearing their concerns and excitement, I contemplated lessons I learned abroad and my personal advice resulting from my own challenges and triumphs. As I read my own words of advice, I recognize that I need to heed these personal words of wisdom in my life right now:
Remember that trials are normal and they will pass
I’ve talked about the hostility stage before but it is one of those things that I have to remind myself about often. Moving is hard. Language barriers are hard. Making new friends is hard. But it’s all worth it and it does get easier.
Say “yes” more than you say “no”
The only real regrets I have from my study abroad experience are when I was too afraid to do something and turned down an opportunity. I personally wish I had said “yes” a lot more and not let fear keep me from riding public transportation alone or
Revisit your goals often
I wanted to perfect my Italian while I was studying abroad in Italy but I would regularly get side tracked and have days that I would solely speak in English. I found I had to keep coming back to my goals, remembering what I wanted to get out of my time abroad.
Take time for yourself and reflect on your experience
One of the best things I did while studying abroad was do things alone. I went to the market alone, visited museums alone, and would find beautiful spots throughout Rome where I could sit and read or journal. The time alone made me appreciate being abroad so much more. In those moments it wasn’t about the people I was with, but rather the place where I was living.
Write it all down because you’ll do so much more than you’ll ever remember
My first time abroad in 2002 I journaled the entire time. Ten years later, I am so grateful for those journals. Without them I probably wouldn’t remember the day that I missed the bus to Cinque Terre or the time my roommate washed her underwear in our bidet.