12 Things I Wish I Knew Before Going Abroad

If you are considering going abroad or already have your plans set, these 12 things could make your life abroad much much easier.

Good preparation before taking off, especially somewhere for a semester or even a year, is key to having good memories, strange stories and lots of fun. Having that said, let’s kick off the list with the first thing on the menu.

1. Culture shock can hit you hard

Even though US is rocking the block with culture and dominant language, when you go abroad, the cultures that you’ll face will be considerably different. They will have different customs, greetings, jokes, levels of politeness that you won’t be one hundred percent prepared for so get ready to adapt and change.

Side Note: This is just one example, but in South Korea sarcasm is not used very often and I have a dark sense of sarcasm when it comes to jokes so it was a bit more difficult for me to communicate with others on the same level.

2. You will go through the moods. Everyone does

When you go abroad, there are a few different stages that everyone usually goes through. First is the honey moon stage where you feel very excited. Then disorientation where you feel a bit lost and like things are a bit too crazy. Followed by loneliness where you can’t fit in. Then homesickness when you want to go home and finally acceptance when things finally become alright again.

These stages represent the cycle of culture shock and adaptability that most people go through while being in a different country. If you want to learn more about these stages and how to overcome them, give this a read.

3. You still have to study

Yep, this one is a must. Just because you are in a different country, does not mean that you things are ten times easier. Although sometimes it is and it’s certainly easy to get lost in the awesomeness of your adventures, remember to study every morning and knock it out to have fun throughout the rest of the day.

4. People will have stereotypes about you

People will generally have the stereotypical “American” in their mind about you so it’s very important to break down those stereotypes ASAP to fit in more nicely with everyone else.

For example, instead of saying “Hi, my name is Artem and I’m from US.” say “Hi, my name is Artem and I’m from Northern Virginia.” Stating a specific location of where you are from instantly destroys any stereotypes other people will have about you. So use it to your advantage!

5. Get rid of stereotypes about other people

I wish Korea was nothing but this…lets face it though. This one is fairly simple, which is best summarized as “Don’t stereotype unto others what you don’t want others to stereotype unto you.” People are people wherever you go and stereotypes can be offensive and much farther from the truth so treat everyone the same and you’ll have more fun than ever.

6. One semester is not enough to become fluent

This is the one thing that most people say is that one semester was not enough to actually become fluent in whichever language they were studying. So try to shoot for the year long study. If it’s too expensive, save up your money and use FAFSA as a backup plan. Here’s a guide on how to pay for studying abroad. 

7. One semester is simply not enough

Most people can’t emphasize this enough. Once you finally get comfortable and you feel like you fit in and belong with all these awesome people, it’s time to fly back and say ‘good bye’. What if instead of saying ‘good bye’ you say ‘hello’ to another full semester and go bananas with the awesome people you now call friends? Yeah a much better feeling huh? Full year it is.

8. Lower your expectations to the ground

The more you expect, the more you will be disappointed because what you dreamed up in your head was not quite what ended up happening. So here’s a totally different idea: don’t expect anything. Crazy to fathom but works like a charm. If you don’t expect anything, then everything that does happen and go your way, ends up being extra cool

9. Becoming one with the adaptability you must

What I mean by that brilliant Yoda reference is that you have to learn to survive and adapt. This is one the biggest aspects of studying abroad because you simply can’t be prepared for everything. So drop that idea and just go with what happens, adapt and make the most of it. If you do that then you will have a blast!

10. Don’t do heavy drinking or drugs

Seems like an easy one but you can get pulled in it fairly easy. Most countries aside from our good ol’ USA have lower restrictions on Alcohol and other drugs so don’t go crazy over them because you can get into a lot of trouble and even expelled from your university, fail your classes and be sent home without a refund. No jokes here. It’s not a fun way to end so don’t do it.

11. Don’t drive… and watch out for those that do

Most of the time you are forbidden from driving while studying abroad due to the different laws and regulations in various countries. But also watch out for other drivers because it can get crazy.

For example one of my classmates that went abroad told me that taxi and car drivers in South Korea can run you over fairly easily because stop lights don’t have the same pauses as they do in US therefore traffic moves considerably faster and becomes more hectic.

Keep a lookout and stay sharp.

12. Have a “Yes Man” attitude

At the end of the day, you have to be adventurous. Just say ‘yes’ if your friends invite you to go out and do something fun or try something different. The more different things you try, the most interesting your study abroad experience will get. Plus it can make a few good stories to tell your friends and family when you get back. The bragging rights you get are the absolute best.

So those are the 12 things I wish I knew before going abroad in a nut shell. Do you agree or disagree with those? Do you have other items you’d like to add to the list? Leave us a comment at the bottom and we’ll respond!

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