There’s no doubt that studying abroad is a great and rewarding experience, but that’s not to say it’s without its anxieties. There are phases to finding out you were accepted into a study abroad program, ranging from pure excitement to “oh my god, what did I just agree to” and everything in between. Initially, when you first find out you were accepted into a study abroad program, you are crazy with happiness and can’t wait to leave. You just found out you’re about to have the semester of your dreams in the country you’ve always wanted to go to. How much better can it get? As the date of the flight gets closer and closer, it is totally normal to start experiencing some apprehension—did I pick the right program for myself? Am I going to make friends? Will I find the culture too hard to adapt to?
Admittedly, I found myself becoming apprehensive after finding out I was the only one from UW-Madison that was going to Massey University in Wellington, New Zealand. This sparked anxiety about going to a country I’ve never been to that is a 15 hour flight away from home, all without knowing anyone. But once I arrived to Wellington, those anxieties vanished. You will find that most people are on the same boat as you and are eager to make friends and meet people to explore the new surroundings with. This is the phase where you start to become familiarized with the new location and you can start to fully enjoy the experience and all the great things studying abroad has to offer. Sure, there are times when you will feel homesick, but usually you are so distracted exploring or hanging out with friends that the homesickness subsides.
One thing to keep in mind: a lot of people (including myself) forget about the “study” aspect in study abroad. With the excitement of living in a new country, it can be hard to find the motivation to make it to classes or do the assignments, but you get a lot out of going to the classes and completing the assignments. Look at it as a way of fully immersing yourself into the student life in this new culture. Through classes and assignments, you see the differences in the education, the politics, the society, the artistic expression, etc. It’s a great part of the entire study abroad experience.
Though it can cause a roller coaster of emotions, studying abroad is an amazing experience that will teach you things about yourself while also providing a greater appreciation for other cultures beyond your home.