The Most Difficult Part of a Semester Abroad

Chances are that any student who spent a semester abroad LOVES to talk about their semester abroad; it's easy to get lost in the memories that were made during that significant period of your life. While many returning students will rant and rave for hours about how incredible their time abroad was, there is one difficult part of studying abroad that not as many students talk about.

(Photo: Hannah Balquist)

Five months of your life in a foreign country go by faster than you could ever expect. The initial nerves fade as you make friends with your new classmates and find your place in your new home. As you travel and learn about your host country, your lifestyle becomes quite distinct from the one that you lead at home, which brings me to the worst part of studying abroad-coming home.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my home. Sleeping in my own bed again after five months was one of the best feelings ever. Seeing my family and friends and being able to hug them again was such an emotional experience. However, returning back to a normal routine at my home university has proven to be more difficult than I originally anticipated. The realization that I can no longer go to my favorite places in my host city, or easily hang out with the roommates I lived with and saw daily has been challenging. There are so many things that you take for granted while you are abroad, and you never truly realize them until you no longer can access them.

(Photo: Hannah Balquist) 

While studying abroad, it is easy to get caught up in the moment, for there's so much that happens and you don't want to miss any of it. On top of your busy schedule, there is now a time difference between you and everyone at home. These factors in combination with confusing international phone plans make staying up to date on activities at home challenging. When you live thousands of miles away, you are bound to miss out on some things at home. Returning to an environment that you are a part of is great, but can definitely be difficult when you’ve been MIA for a while. There’s no real way to catch up on every single detail that you missed. Odds are routines have changed while you were away and you’re going to feel a bit out of place; there’s no avoiding that. The best way to deal with it is to just focus on moving forward and not dwelling on your absence. Instead, it is important to focus on the incredible experience that you did have.

(Photo: Hannah Balquist)

Another strange phenomenon that happens once you return from your semester abroad is the feeling that it never happened. Sometimes, I find myself looking at photos from the semester and wondering if it was actually just some awesome dream that I had. Taking on five months away from everything you’ve ever known is a major accomplishment that you should be proud of, but it's not an opportunity that presents itself frequently. When you are no longer in your abroad lifestyle and can no longer see your international friends daily, it can quickly become a memory. I am so grateful that we live in an era of technology to keep in touch and look at pictures to reflect on the time spent out of the country.

(Photo: Hannah Balquist)

Studying abroad was easily the best part of my college experience. I would not trade my experiences for anything, but that's not to say that it doesn’t come without its difficulties. It is easy to look at a semester abroad and focus on the good times, but, for me, there were many more good times than bad. However, I believe it is important to acknowledge the bad with the good. Studying abroad is a challenge in many respects and returning home is one of the biggest ones, yet, overcoming this challenge has made me even more appreciative of my time abroad, and for the technology we have today that helps keep the experiences alive.