The Difficulty of Deciding to Go Abroad

I have to admit it: my heart sinks every time I log onto Facebook and see another friend gleefully sharing where they’ve been accepted to go abroad. It’s not that I’m not happy for them. I truly am. It’s just that gnawing feeling in the back of my mind as I scroll through acceptance photo after acceptance photo and wonder if I’ll be scrolling through their abroad photos with this same feeling. As I see a friend announced they’re headed to London and another get excited over Madrid, I ask myself who will get TDR with me during the week and who will I go out with on Friday nights? My mind runs through my own thoughts about going abroad, all of my reservations, all of my desires, and wonder, is it worth it?

Should I go abroad because I have FOMO?

It’s truly not just that, though I do admit I worry about missing out if I don't go abroad. There are many factors that affect one’s decision to go abroad that we will shortly venture through, but at a school like AU where our study abroad programs are shoved down our throats before we’ve even applied and the shuttle is wrapped with posters on it, it’s hard not to feel anxious if you have any reservations about going abroad. Luckily though, I'm not alone on this feeling. 

So, what could be holding me and countless others back and what is there to do about it?

Money

This is probably the biggest one. Personally as a Resident Assistant who doesn’t pay for housing, I can’t say I’m too keen (nor are my parents) on having to find and pay for housing again. Meanwhile, as I scroll through Snapchats and Facebook photos of friends currently abroad, I can’t help but wonder how they’re paying for their rendezvous all across Europe and bar hops. So, if money is an issue, you’re not alone.

Of course, there are options! There’s a plethora of study abroad scholarships. NAFSA keeps an extensive list and so does Studyabroad.com. The AU study abroad website also offers scholarships and grants. There are also other options like working remotely while you’re abroad. If you’re a younger student who intends to go abroad, start saving up now and designate where exactly your money is going to go, such as to housing or to that Paris trip you’re just dying to take once you arrive. With some advanced planning and maybe a lot of applications, the money issue may not seem so daunting anymore!

Friends

You may have the opposite problem as myself: none of your friends are going and the thought of going to a foreign country without knowing anyone else is terrifying. Others may say that you shouldn’t go abroad with the intention of just hanging out with people you know, but it’s completely understandable to be nervous about going alone. If that’s what’s holding you back, ask your study abroad advisor if they can point you in the direction of another AU student going to your same program or see if your program has any immersion programs or trips for American students. Furthermore, if you’re planning on a homestay, you’re sure to make friends as your host family will probably be happy to make you feel welcome.

Your major

For some AU students, such as students studying a language or international relations, going abroad is a no-brainer. For other majors, it may be harder to feel as though going abroad will add anything to your major or you’ll be able to find a program that fits well. Luckily, the AU study abroad website contains helpful course equivalency lists and also suggested programs by major! Your study abroad advisor can also help you out!

General feelings of anxiety/homesickness

If you’re like me, anxiety about going abroad sometimes doesn’t necessarily have a concrete cause, like money. It can just be anxiety associated with leaving your home country and going to a new one for an extended period of time. If that’s holding you back, it’s a good idea to begin having discussions with those you feel comfortable around to figure out a plan to stay in touch. Skype will become your best friend. It’s also perfectly okay to see someone—a counselor, a study abroad advisor, a loved one—to talk through these feelings. Ask someone who has gone abroad before who has had these feelings about how they managed them.

Still not convinced?

If you’re still not convinced going abroad is right for you or you’re still on the fence, remember there are lots of other options out there too! There are alternative breaks, which are short-term, can be less expensive and are great learning experiences as well as volunteering experiences. You can also save up and plan a trip on your own—Iceland can be relatively inexpensive! Going on a trip on your own allows you to go at your own pace, stay as long as you want and you don’t even have to worry about homework! You also don't need to go to Europe to get an abroad experience. You can go abroad here in the United States and visit another state you've never been to! Road trip, anyone?

So if you’re struggling with the idea of going abroad, fretting over FOMO and writing constant pros and cons list, remember you’re not alone. Also remember that going abroad doesn’t have to be such a staple of your college career like AU thinks it must be. Remember that your decision is the right one. 

 

Photo Credit: 12345