Even though it may seem like the deal of a lifetime, studying abroad is not all fun and games. If you are prepared to spend the best time of your life in a completely unfamiliar land in the company of friendly foreigners, you might need to investigate further what your trip really is going to be like and if it will bring you the advantages you need. What are some cons that you will need to consider and adapt to, if you choose to leave your homeland?
You might feel like the book that generously promised you French in thirty days is the guarantee that you will feel like a fish in a pond on the streets of Paris, but be more careful in your judgements. Even if you have a certain level of proficiency, or are planning to achieve it on your trip, there might still be situations when your level will not match the one of a local. Embarrassing miscommunications at the bar, sudden loss of wallets and passports might be unpleasant but surmountable barriers, while emergency situations involving medical assistance or road accidents might be very dangerous or even fatal.
Seemingly harmless situations, such as extending your hand for a handshake while your host bows instead, might seem like just funny troubles any foreigner experiences, but the culture barrier should not be overlooked when we consider living abroad for an extended period of time. Table manners, rules of tipping, dress code might all be obstacles to consider while sailing on your trip. Even the simple notion of holding or avoiding eye-contact might create problems of communication that will lead to troubles or confusion in relationships. It is recommended to read or research about the customs and traditions of your target country before landing, as life might bring you surprises the minute you get off your plane and step on the foreign land.
Adaptation to Surroundings
Jetlag is unpleasant, but it is just the first step of adapting to the new world. Soon you will find yourself lost in your neighborhood, unable to locate the market, the laundry, the post office, the places on campus and other strategically valuable buildings. Adaptation also involves sharing space with a roommate who might also be from another country, and trying to sound cheerful even in the hardest situations.
How close are you to your family and friends? Even if you can keep in touch through the internet, if you are not a constant presence in their lives, sometimes the relationship can reveal a few cracks beneath the cheerful surface. It is not always fun to listen to the different experiences you will encounter abroad for them, as it is equally boring for you to pay attention to the daily routine that you have left behind. On the other hand, if your communication is satisfying, it may lead to the problem of you not quite exploring the terra incognita around you. Along with that comes the trouble of missing certain food, certain places, even the simple sound of people talking your own language. That seems like a comfort you can sacrifice for a period of time, but the trouble comes knocking in, when you cannot find the right and familiar medicine in the local drugstore.