Howdy from Texas! I’m a bit (okay, a lot) late on writing this post because of the craziness of the holidays and returning to school.
About a month ago, I returned to the good ole US of A and have now settled back into life at Texas A&M. Although I had some concerns about the impact returning to a life of normalcy would have on my mental state, I can honestly say the transition turned out to be much smoother than I anticipated, and I experienced little to no “reverse culture shock” (aside from the Texas heat, of course). It may be hard to believe, but after living abroad you will realize there are some things that no place does better than Texas. The southern hospitality, embrace of loved ones, and southern comfort food have undeniably made the past month a lot easier. Helpful hint: if you ever feel yourself starting to miss Europe, eat your weight in queso, and you will feel better. After having some time to reflect on my experience abroad, I wanted to use this last post to hopefully help prepare you for the unexpected during your semester abroad.
I wish I could tell you that every part of my experience abroad was incredible. Magical. Out-of-this-world-unbelievably-perfect-in-every-way. Unfortunately, in case you haven’t figured it out, life isn’t always perfect. Don’t get me wrong- it was amazing and magical, and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. However, when moving across the globe for 4 months, a few bumps in the road are to be expected. Here are a few I encountered throughout the semester and how I dealt with them:
- News Flash: Europe gets hot. Upon my arrival in August, I was a little taken aback by the high temperatures and lack of air conditioning in most facilities. To avoid overheating, I would suggest packing a couple pairs of shorts and some short sleeves to get you through the first month. I also purchased a cheap electric fan at a drug store to put next to my bed to help me sleep at night.
- A rocky start. Moving to a new place with new people, new food, a new language, a new culture, a new time zone and about 100 other new things, as awesome as it is, can also be a little overwhelming in the beginning. Give yourself some time to adjust. It’s okay to feel homesick. In fact, it’s normal. When you start to miss home, follow these simple steps:
- Let yourself feel a little sad for a minute
- Get out of your room
- Go look at something pretty
- Eat a pastry
- Remind yourself how amazing this place is that you get to call home for a few months
- The food… I may get some criticism for this, but Austrian food was not my favorite. I like food a lot, so this was very disappointing to me. Thankfully, there will most likely be lots of restaurants that offer options aside from the traditional food of your country. I personally just decided to cook most of my meals. Exploring international grocery stores is actually very fun! Also, when in doubt, McDonalds anywhere besides the US is pretty fantastic. Don’t knock it ’til you try it…
- My phone got stolen. I know. It was not fun. I was in Berlin on a trip, and someone on the subway platform stole my phone. Now, don’t freak out- these things don’t happen super often. However, if something of that nature does happen, I promise it will be okay. My advice is to always be aware of your surroundings in crowded places, and have a plan for if/when it does happen. If you go on a solo trip, just be hyper aware, and don’t put anything valuable in your pocket…
- You can’t see it all. I had a physical list of all the places I thought I would get to see during my semester, but in reality, I probably only made it to about 2/3 of those places due to budget and time constraints. However, I still left Europe having no regrets. Why? Because I instead ended up traveling to a couple random places that were less expensive but still incredible. My advice would be to have a couple of places in mind that you REALLY want to see, but also be flexible. It will be amazing no matter what. Besides, you should save a few places for the next time you decide to travel, because the travel bug is real, and you will catch it.
You may face challenges similar to mine, or you may encounter your own set of challenges. Whatever they may be, use them to learn and grow. Go into your semester with an open mind, be flexible, and most of all, enjoy the ride. It will be an experience you will cherish forever. Be bold, make it your own, try new things, and make the most of every day.
Best of luck and well wishes to any future exchange students out there! Auf Wiedersehen!