Last year, if you had asked me what I thought studying abroad would be like, I would’ve told you that it would mean getting to travel the world, getting to meet new people and having the time of your life during a once in a lifetime opportunity. While all of this is true, there’s something that no one ever tells you about the topic. No one warned me how lonely it could be. If you’re not amazing at making friends and putting yourself out there, it can be a tough experience. I’m lucky to now have friends here who I really enjoy spending time with. I’m currently doing a semester abroad in Cork, Ireland so I can only speak from personal experiences.
When you first arrive in what’s going to be your new home for the next several months you experience what’s called the “honeymoon period”. Everything is so new and exciting and everyone you meet will seem like a potential new best friend. However, this feeling doesn’t always last very long. Once the culture shock hits and you realize no one here knows you the way your friends and family back home do, and it can be a little hard to adjust. Personally, I miss my friends back home immensely but have to keep reminding myself that while things may be different, everything I’m missing will still be there when I get back. And I know there will come a day where I’m missing this part of my life as well, where I can book a flight to London or Paris with less than a week’s notice and just explore a new part of the world.
I will forever be grateful for this opportunity. The chance to get to learn from a completely new perspective and get to travel the world at such a young age is honestly a blessing. However, I just want to make it clear that it’s perfectly okay to not be the happiest you’ve ever been while abroad. I feel like Instagram makes us think that people study abroad and all they do is drink wine, eat amazing meals and go out having the times of their lives. While all of that stuff is possible, it can also be a lonely experience.
I personally love traveling so much because it’s when I have learned the most about myself. For example, this experience has taught me that while I’m good at being alone, I crave experiences with other people the most. I’d rather sit in a cafe and talk to someone for hours than run around seeing touristy sights. I prefer learning about the people of the world and seeing what makes them who they are, much more than seeing a beautiful cathedral that is thousands of years old. I’ve also learned that I need to be much harder on myself about my work ethic. While I have big dreams and so many ideas running through my head at all times; I have such a hard time actually putting them into action.
With all of this being said, I would always recommend that if given the opportunity you should study abroad. My experience is unique to me and no one’s experience is going to be identical. I just wish someone had prepared me that every day might not be the way that Instagram makes it out to be. At the end of the day, you choose what you make out of these new experiences. I’ve decided that even though it’s hard sometimes, the next few months of my life I will be living in Europe and I’m going to be happy about that. Things are definitely looking up as I’ve started traveling to other places like England and Scotland, and have begun exploring all the cafes in my city that I possibly can. (I need something to get me out of my room so I don’t have time to miss everyone.) Basically, if I want people to get anything out if this article it’s that it’s okay not to be okay. It’s perfectly valid to be upset while everyone else thinks you should be thriving. These emotions are normal and valid, and I promise you, they will get better!