Studying abroad in college is perhaps the only time you can pack up and move across the ocean for a few months without any backlash. It is a great opportunity to try new food, drink (legally) and immerse yourself in a new culture. Oh, and take classes.
Such a dramatic change comes with its challenges, though these usually pop up within the first few weeks as you find your footing. Still, it never hurts to prepare and tackle problems the moment they arise.
Here are a few issues you may encounter as you head overseas.
Even if the currency looks different, the money is still very real. Between flight costs, tuition, food, souvenirs, more souvenirs — bills add up quickly. Be careful you don't slip into a vacation mindset for three months and buy everything in sight.
Being a three-hour bus ride away from home is much different than a 12 hour flight. Within the first few weeks of your new adventure, you may feel homesickness creeping up on you. Totally normal. Unfortunately, unless you want to drop all your classes and head home, there is no simple fix. Make sure you have a reliable phone plan to stay in touch with family and exchange pictures. Before you go, pack a few items with sentimental value for comfort purposes. Stay focused on your class work and exploring the new culture, and time will fly.
Depending on where you stay, it is likely your new city will have surrounding areas worth exploring. Be prepared when traveling in a different country. Subway systems vary, taxi drivers may not speak English and you could end up making one too many wrong turns on foot. Never explore alone, plan out each venture and take plenty of water and money. Getting lost can lead you to new and exciting sights, but finding your way home is always most important.
After a few weeks of tasting new dishes, your stomach might ache for your mom's cooking, or perhaps a juicy McDonald's burger. Be prepared to crave food from home. Ask around about 'American'-style restaurants, or brave the hunger pains. By the time you return home, the food will taste a million times better.
Despite the inevitable risks of leaving your home country, the benefits of studying abroad are endless. Stepping outside your comfort zone is a healthy way to grow as a scholar and individual. If you have the chance to take courses abroad, seriously consider. Prepare for problems, but also prepare for an experience that will shape you, and send you back to home base with a renewed perspective.