No Pain No Gain: Main Challenges and Takeaways of Study Abroad

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Authored By:

Alejandra Herrera

Getting on a plane heading to an unfamiliar place can be both nerve-wracking and exciting. You are embarking in a life changing adventure, heading towards the unknown, after a pandemic that has affected the world in many ways, and yes, cultural shock can be more outrageous than ever. The first couple of weeks are the most difficult ones, no matter how many wonderful experiences you engaged in, landmarks you see and friendly people you meet; at some point of the day, you will miss what is familiar and known, your routine and your long-life friends and somehow studying abroad will not seem like a good idea anymore. There will be several cues that could push you to the edge; navigating a different school system, finding classrooms, getting used to a new bed, food, and ways of requesting and expressing ideas in a new language.

Take a deep breath and reflect on the following suggestions that may help you ease the transition and focus on the learning opportunities that studying abroad in can offer.

Talk about your culture and the adjustment process: If you are not feeling well and you are confused and homesick, please do not hold it in, share it with your onsite counselor, teachers, or friends, keep in mind that all people involved in your program know the local implicit rules. Listen to the tips and advice they offer.
Let go of being right: There are many ways of doing things, not just the “correct or familiar” one you are aware of. Take the time to appreciate the differences and focus your attention on the skills you can develop from these experiences.
Use the host language: The more you explore the language, the more comfortable you will feel, and you’ll become more fluent. Do not be afraid to make mistakes! “¿Puedes repetir la pregunta? ¿Puedes decirlo más despacio por favor?
Avoid stereotyping: although, you may observe that people do things in a very different way than in your home country, stereotyping will not help in your adaptation process, focus on how useful learning about how others do things can be.

Keep your senses, minds, and hearts open, and immerse yourself into the local culture. We are certain that the skills and knowledge that you will develop, will enrich your personal and professional life.