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
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.
Although I’ve watched a good number of films lately from around the globe, I haven’t been inspired to blog about any in a while. But this past week I watched the Iron Lady, and actually found myself writing down quotes from the movie (BTW, that is not a regular occurrence). Margaret Thatcher may be a controversial character in Britain’s history, but she definitely said some quotable statements during her tenure in British politics. As a woman with a great deal of responsibility on her shoulders, I think there are some lessons we can all take from her. So with a cup of tea in hand, here is what I have learned from the longest-serving British Prime Minister.
Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan.
These days without the structure of a full-time job, I think I find this advice from M.T. to be the most practical. At least I’ve made it practical and started making my checklist every morning. It’s made me contemplate my goals and write them down, even the little ones. (Today: learn 30 new words for the GRE.)
I do not know anyone who has got to the top without hard work. That is the recipe. It will not always get you to the top, but it should get you close.
I am on the cusp of being a Millennial, a generation known for their access and ease with technology, but also regularly criticized for its characteristics of entitlement. Margaret’s quote was a good reminder that I cannot rest on the shoulders of others to accomplish my goals. It will take my own hard work and perseverance.
To wear your heart on your sleeve isn’t a very good plan; you should wear it inside, where it functions best.
As an emotional thinker, I can certainly benefit from this lesson. If I can allow my heart and mind to function in unison, rather that allow my heart to run the show, my decisions and probably my outcomes would all be better.
Thank you, Margaret, for the tea and for the good advice.
My earlier post got me thinking about my study abroad experience and if I were to study abroad again, not just where would I go, but what would I do differently. My time in Italy changed me for the better, but I definitely made some of the more common mistakes. If you’ve already been abroad, I’m sure you can relate to some of these. If not, than hats off to you…I’m impressed. For anyone preparing to leave, take my advice and avoid some of the most classic regrets.
In addition to avoiding Stuff Study Abroad Students Say, if I could do it all over I would:
- Study abroad for a full year. I was very involved at my college and just couldn’t convince myself to go abroad for more than the two month program. Granted I did it three times, but I still wish I would have gone for a year when I had the ability.
- Give up English. While my Italian definitely improved while I was abroad, I wish I had just stopped speaking English all together. I think my vocab would be a lot better today if I had.
- Go by myself. The second time I studied abroad, I went with a friend who I had met on my first program. We started out great friends…we ended not speaking to each other. In fact we haven’t spoken since. While it’s fun to travel with friends, I always advise to study alone.
- Consistently journal. I really wish blogging had existed when I studied abroad. Maybe I would have actually wrote more of my experience down. Now I just have faded memories of washing clothes in the bidet and my original impressions of seeing a Bernini for the first time.
- Pack less. I am 4’11”. It is great quality on planes; not so much when carrying luggage. Plus, no one needs 8 pairs of shoes for 8 weeks in Italy.
Eight pairs of size 3 shoes still take up a lot of space.