As my time abroad is coming to an end, I am reflecting back on what I wish I knew before starting my studying abroad. My trip around Eastern Europe was incredible, but there were definitely some things I wish I knew before heading in to it. I was able to learn as the trip progressed, but for anyone that needs any advice, you have come to the right place!
Something I realized very quickly during my time abroad was that each country presented a new group of people to adjust to and learn from. Going from Croatia to Italy was going from quieter, more low-key people to louder and less-friendly people who were often fed up with tourists. Learning to adjust and respect people with the presence of a language barrier was something I had to get used to. Alongside this, I learned the helpfulness of applications like TripAdvisor, Google Maps, and my translation app. These were suggested to me prior to my arrival, and I am so glad I used them. They helped me eat good (and cheap) food, get to locations around the city, and understand where exactly I was going when the city buses did not have English translations available. Arming yourself with technology can really help you conquer a new place.
I really did not expect how tired I would be; adjusting to our busy daily schedules was something I had to do quickly. Going into study abroad, make sure you know exactly what you will be doing so you can get good amounts of sleep, studying, and sight-seeing in. I also was a little thrown off by the clothes that I needed to bring. I would suggest looking up the norms of all cities and countries you are visiting when packing. I did not pack enough casual clothes, and wish that I did. Finally, I would seriously recommend trying as many new things as possible. Whether it is food, an unusual trip, or even talking to people, it is all very fun and worth it. Make the most of your trip!
As college students, we are very fortunate to always have a comfortable bubble. Campus, dorm rooms, and friend groups provide us with escapes that we can use. But when you study abroad, you are with a group of new people in a very new place where you must also master a course. The most valuable thing I have learned from my time abroad was how to be okay with being uncomfortable. There were many times were I was confused or stressed either with the city or my course, and I didn’t have Gorgas library or my friends to comfort me. Learning how to navigate an uncomfortable situation really helped me grow as a person and student. I got out of my comfort zone and made new friends, navigated large airports alone, tried new foods, and lived without AC for a month (that one was probably the hardest). It is okay to struggle; allowing yourself to become better at travelling and adjusting is a lifelong skill that you can take into a professional setting.
I have had an incredible time abroad and made incredible friends along the way. I will be excited to see my friends and family back home, but I will miss what I have grown used to–the cafes nearby, the new currency, and my familiar area. However, my time abroad has been one for the books; it was a truly amazing experience that I will never forget!