This time last year I was just finishing off week one of Winter Term at North Central. I had just returned to America from spending Christmas at home and was wishing I was still there.
Although studying abroad and living in America for a year was the greatest experience of my life, at the time I didn’t fully appreciate just how great it was. Instead I focused on the food I missed from home, the never ending school work I had to do, and the awkwardness of sharing a dorm with someone else.
It wasn’t until I returned back home that I realised just how much I had experienced, and how much I would miss studying abroad.
If you’re thinking of studying abroad, DO IT! Despite the homesickness, language barriers, and unfamiliar food, it will be the best thing you have ever done in your life.
I am able to look back now, 6 months later, and see that I miss it all, even the bad stuff, and also recognise the mistakes I made that could have made it, if possible, and even better year.
When I boarded the plane to Chicago to start my first term abroad, I had with me the largest suitcase I could buy, a carry stuffed with clothes, and a backpack filled with so much stuff, I could barely close it.
But I was convinced that I needed to bring with me as much stuff as possible. My giant case was just under the weight limit, and I was lucky my carry on case was not weighed, as that definitely would have been over the limit.
I just had to bring with me outfits for every occasion and weather possible. Yet by the end of my year abroad, I had maybe only worn half of what I brought with me.
When it came to packing my cases to finally go home, I probably donated at least half of what I brought with me, making space for instead souvenirs and other keepsakes from my year in America, that meant more to me than some clothes.
Textbooks in America are expensive. The bookstore on campus had the option for students to either buy books, or for a cheaper rent the books, and then return them at the end of term.
For my first two terms I rented as many of my books as I could, but there were a couple that I unfortunately had to buy. The bookstore and many online bookstores did offer to buy student textbooks back, but for a drastically smaller cost, usually just a few cent, which can mean a great loss if you purchased a book for $70.
It wasn’t until my third term that I realised that I could order in books from other libraries within the state and just loan them from my college’s library for FREE.
I saved myself a large amount of money, money that I then used to go travelling around America at the end of my study abroad.
Now I don’t regret studying (it was the reason I was there) but I do regret the amount of time I spent studying.
I enjoyed many of the classes I took while studying abroad, but a lot of them had heavy workloads, and I would often spend many of my evening and weekends doing work, for classes that at the end of my year, wouldn’t count.
I spent much of my time doing work, when I could have instead been exploring Chicago, or taking weekend trips to other cities.
I don’t regret all of the studying I did – I made the Dean’s honours list every term, but looking back I wish I could have spent more time spending time with my international friends and exploring America.
Thinking About Home
Getting homesick while living abroad for a year was inevitable, but I was one of the lucky few who got to travel home for christmas, while many of my friends did not have the option.
But trying to negotiate time differences to be able to phone home was alien to me. No longer could I phone my mum at any time of the day and expect her to be able to answer.
By the end of my year abroad, I couldn’t wait to go home and eat all the food I missed, see all the people I missed, and sleep in my own bed!
But focusing on these things, especially towards the end left me leaving America glad that I was leaving, when I should have been appreciating all of the new and different things America had offered me, instead of comparing them to what I was used to at home.
There were many weekends and evenings I was “bored.”
But what I actually was was lazy!
All of the time I was just sat around with friends watching TV, doing nothing could have been spent meeting new people, attending many of the events held on campus, and exploring the local area.
Never say you are bored while studying abroad, because there is literally an endless list of things to do in this brand new country you are living in!
Staying In My Comfort Zone
This one ties into the being “bored” and studying mistakes.
Too many times instead of experiencing something new, I instead thought about the cost or the time it would eat up that I could be studying.
While I did take advantage of my time in America and travel to many new places, that a lot of other international students around me did not have the opportunity to, I could have taken more risks.
Try new foods, join a club you have no experience in, become friends with strangers, take risks, because choosing to study abroad is already a step in the right direction for leaving your comfort zone!