A lot has happened since my last post… some good, some not so good (my friend’s phone got stolen but we took a weekend trip to a beautiful, oceanfront city in the south of Spain). But I thought I would make this post something other than just me recounting my time here. I want this post to be something that everyone can relate to and possibly use for themselves in the future, based on my own experiences. So, here is what I’m gonna do…
10 Goals For Study Abroad
1 ۞ Get out of your comfort zone.
This is going to be the hardest thing you do but if you apply it to everything you do while abroad, you will have a much better experience. Everyday after classes I have been retreating to my room to either sleep or watch RuPaul’s Drag Race. I’m realizing that this is ridiculous… no one talks about their study abroad experience being INCREDIBLE because of all the sleep they got.
2 ۞ Learn to enjoy the present, from moment to moment.
This is a common theme in my posts and something I am constantly striving to improve. I get so caught up in plans and what I’m gonna be doing tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that… I lose the ability to enjoy the here and now.
But you will never find happiness if you’re always running to catch it.
As long as you are aware that this is important, you can apply it.
3 ۞ Talk with as many people as you possible can.
No matter where you are, if you’re trying to learn a foreign language or not, you should take time out of every single day to talk to people who live where you are. It’s actually really fun to talk about cultural differences, perceptions they have about the US, your perceptions about their country (be careful not to offend them). You’ll get a first-hand view of the culture you’re living in and see things through someone else’s eyes instead of just your own...which is why you’re there, right? To live and learn differently?
4 ۞ Don’t ask foreigners where to visit, ask the locals.
Even if (typically Americans) foreigners have been to the place you’re living before and have a lot of recommendations, it’s going to be nothing compared to what locals recommend. They know all of the places that foreigners just won’t know. No one knows the area better than people who have lived there their entire life.
5 ۞ Make a bucket list and do it.
With a mix of talking to locals, foreigners and consulting travel websites, form your own bucket list. Ideally, you will be able to check off everything before you go back home. But it’s nice to have whenever you have a free moment/free day to be able to just look at your list and have a beautiful, fun and unpredictable day.
6 ۞ Write in a journal as much as you can.
I really think this is important. It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer or not (for me I’m constantly writing), it is an amazing way to remember everything, flesh out your thoughts each day, and get the most out of your experience. Reflecting on yourself and your experiences is one of the most formative things you can do to live everyday well and improve yourself.
7 ۞ Adapt to their culture instead of sticking to your own.
This can be really hard when you’ve lived your whole life a certain way. Even if you’re the most easy-going, care-free, chill person on this planet, you will struggle with this. But, instead of rejecting a different way of life, embrace it. If you go into things with a rigid routine, you’ll be very dissatisfied and uncomfortable. Well, you’ll be uncomfortable no matter what (usually just in the beginning until you settle into things), but by insisting on sticking to what you know, you’ll just prolong the discomfort for yourself.
8 ۞ If someone asks you to do something, eat something or see something, SAY YES.
This I have been struggling with as well. I will usually try anything or do anything, but I definitely have not been saying “yes” to things left and right. For example, my host mom the other day slid a plate of fried sardines in front of me, bones and all, and I literally gasped. I love fish, but I have always had a hard time eating things that look like the animals they came from. I didn’t end up trying it (I couldn’t even look at the plate without getting light-headed and nauseous), but the next time she puts it in front of me I am going to try it. What’s the worst that can happen? I guess I'll make sure I have a trash can right next to me.
9 ۞ Be flexible.
Don’t make plans unless it’s absolutely necessary (like flights, trains, and hotels if traveling to other cities/countries). It’s almost like you’re constantly setting yourself up with no expectations (read my article about living your life without expectations HERE). That way, when you stumble upon a new place, try a new restaurant, or walk by something that looks fun, you’ll enjoy it way more. It doesn’t mean you can’t plan tours, but just try not to plan every minute of every day. It also sets yourself up for unpredictable, satisfying experiences rather than writing in your journal at the end of a day like...
“Well, we got up early and did that tour I booked a week ago. It was exactly like the pictures on the website and we did exactly what they said we would do. Then we went to that restaurant reservation. Then we saw that show.”
“We were walking to the city center and saw some bikes so we ended up riding around the city and up and down the river. Then we saw this cool neighborhood with some local shops and fruit stands. The fruit was quite literally the best I’ve ever had in my life and I got to talk to the vendor for a while about his entire life.”
Sounds way more fun, right? And that experience isn’t even unrealistic...these days can be frequent if you let them be.
10 ۞ If you’re not resting or by yourself, disconnect.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t use your phone or
computer, but just in moderation. If you’re eating with people, walking around the city, or basically anytime you’re not resting you should practice being in the moment. You’re away from everything and everyone, so act like it! Use it as a vacation from reality, not just a transfer of your life from one place to another.
I’m going to try and follow this as much as I can. I think it’s a good reference point for anyone who plans on traveling or studying abroad. Let’s hope I can put my money where my mouth is (money of which is flying out of my bank account, I might add)…
۞ ally ۞