7 things I learned from studying abroad

7 things I learned from studying abroad

 

Hello students!,

 

My name is Sebastian, originally from Santiago, Chile. I have spent the last 5 years of my life studying overseas in the US and now in Australia. I attended Campbellsville University in Kentucky, Lindenwood University in Missouri, and Torrens University in Australia. I decided to share with this community the 7 biggest lessons of this awesome experience. I hope you all enjoy it !! :)

 

1)I learned to get out of my comfort zone

 

One of the first feelings I had when I decided to go overseas was fear. It is actually very common to be afraid of what are you going to find outside of the world you know, and realizing how much are you leaving behind (friends, family, commodity at home, etc). However, this was something I really wanted to accomplish, so i decided to just don’t be afraid of putting myself out of the comfort zone. Sooner than later, I ended up realizing that there is a bunch of new experiences and feelings to explore for even just a one-semester trip. Most people I met throughout my 5 years abroad loved the experience. In fact, a few of them even got addicted to it and ended up as full-time travelers !

 

2) I had to do research.

 

I strongly recommend that when you are planning your trip overseas, make sure pay to attention to all the details. On my first experience abroad, I did not know where I was actually going. Because of that little mistake, I ended up in a very small and boring town in the middle of the nowhere in Kentucky. I eventually moved out of that place a year later. So, YES! It is very important to get to do some research about the place you decided to go, it could save you from huge headache in the future.

 

Many of you may be asking what is the best way to get to know your next destination and the educational institution that you are planning to attend, I asked myself that question many times. The answer is simpler than you think: Google it!. When I was getting prepare to come to Australia I actually googled everything: from how much money do people spend on a daily basis to the diversity of people that live in my city. In fact, I actually reached out to a few students and lecturers through the social media so I could get a better understanding of what I was going to find here. Surprisingly, all of them were very friendly and helped me through the process of moving to where I live now.

 

Now just go ahead! Don't be afraid to ask any question to your travel agency or even to the locals. Nowadays, is a lot more easier to get in touch with people all over the world.

 

3) I had to be a responsible person.

 

I know this could be an obvious point. However, when you get to your destination an entire new life will start… You meet a lot of new people from different places in the world. From there, whatever you do it is only up to you.

 

I can still remember my first semester in St Louis. I arrived to Missouri after a year living in a dry county (no alcohol whatsoever), so the first thing I did was to head down to the University bars to have drinks for the first time in the US!. Yes!, it was amazing! But eventually, I got into the night life a little bit too much and ended up dropping my GPA drastically. After that, I got calls from my advisor, professors and of course my family. All of them reminded me about my actual goal of traveling all the way from Chile to the US: TO GET A DEGREE.

 

It is always nice to have a little bit of fun but do not forget about your reason of going overseas. You would be surprised how many times I saw international student going back to their countries after just one year abroad.

 

4) Don't be afraid about language.

 

Many times when I went back to Chile, my friends and relatives asked me how do I deal with English speakers all day. Most of my friends said that they would not be able to deal with the language barrier. But guess what? None of them actually tried!.

 

I understand that it may be overwhelming to be speaking a different language every day. But be patient, little by little you will get used to it ! When I first landed in the US I barely knew how to speak english. Now, five years later I have had many people told me how surprised they were about my ability to communicate in english and even that I speak like a native english speaker. So, it is not impossible! You just need to give yourself some time to get used to it.

 

I usually get asked for ways to learn and practice a new language and surprisingly there are a lot of ways!. One of my favorites is to watch movies. YES! Watching movies!! Just by changing the language of your favorite movie would be a great start to train your listening skills. Be sure to pay attention to how actors express themselves ! Also, most universities offer language programs for students that need a little bit more training. So just don’t be afraid, get yourself out there and start trying to speak. Probably sooner than later you will realize that your speaking, listening, and communicational skills are actually improving. How cool is that?!

 

5) To be sociable, respectful and open minded.

 

Usually, new international students are told that they will experience what’s called the ‘Culture Shock’. Many universities and institutions will actually give you steps to go through it. However, all you have to do is just be a little bit more open to what you will find. Personally, I had to go through the culture shock 3 different times: when I first got to the US, when I came back to my home country (yes, it was actually hard to get used to it after 4 years abroad), and when I arrived to Australia.

 

I still remember a having roommates that practice a different religion, eat different food, or even take showers at different times!. At first, you may find yourself in shock because of the difference in habits. However, you will soon understand that the world is HUGE, that cultures practice different habits, and that we are all still humans.

 

My piece of advice is just be yourself and be prepared to open your mind to what are you going to find on this adventure. All of us, as international students, were just where you are now, so don’t be afraid to talk to people, make friends, and interact with different cultures. After your program is over you will find yourself surrounded by friends from all over the world and most of them will be happy to welcome you in their home countries. Isn’t that exciting? You will be able to travel without paying for accommodation ! :D

 

6) To be prepared to make mistakes.

 

Personally, I think that being abroad gave me a lot of problem-solving skills. I learned to be prepared to make mistakes. Probably, this will be one of the best lessons of all this crazy experience. Most of the time students going abroad think that everything will go as planned. But the truth is that most of the time at least one thing will go wrong. In which case, you need to be prepared.

 

First of all, I had to understand that making mistakes is extremely normal. People make mistakes every day: I make mistakes, you make mistakes, everyone takes a bad decision once in awhile. However, it does not matter how huge the mistake is, what really matter is how you solve it. I have seen many people and even myself stressing over a bad decision, but not planning to overcome it. The very first step to get over any mistake is to actually realize you made one, then get yourself together and start thinking about ways to get through it.

 

As I told you earlier, when I first arrived to the US I was totally unhappy with the place I was. It took one entire semester to understand that I needed to stop complaining about it and start planning for a solution. Eventually, I moved from Kentucky to Missouri looking for a place more suitable for me and I actually stayed there for 3 years!. Going abroad gives you an incredible opportunity to practice your problem-solving skills, so be prepared! Not scared :).

 

7) I will never forget where I came from

 

Probably, this may be the most cliche advice of this article. However, as soon as you’re boarding the plane that will take you to your new home, you will be leaving behind family, friends, co-workers, you own country, and pretty much everything that made you who you are now.

 

While living overseas, it is very important to follow your principles in life; to not forget what you learned from you parents, friends, and your own culture. This experience will set a huge distance between your home and you, but if you want to make the best out of this you have to always remember who encouraged you, who supported you, and who made you the person you are now. When the time of sharing your roots with your new international friends comes, make sure you share your experience with pride and love. Everyone will love it!

 

This experience of going overseas will teach you many lessons, and it will soon become part of who you are as well, so learn from it and enjoy it !!

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