Going abroad is one of those experiences that everyone who has done it seems to rave about. It almost seems as if there are no bad things to it, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. No one really likes to admit that there’s days in your exchange when it really just sucks or when you realize your expectations were just off. Here’s some things I really did wish I had known before going abroad.
Goodbyes are the hardest part
Ok, this is probably the most obvious one. Goodbyes were the hardest part of going abroad to me, because that was when it all hit me. You will start realizing that you really won’t be seeing your loved ones for a very long time and that sucks. You will probably also start questioning whether this was the right thing to do and whether it will be worth it. And yes, it will all be worth it.
You will get homesick at some point
This is the part no one wants to admit! Of course you will get homesick at one point. I got homesick like three weeks into my exchange experience (That’s when most people experience a low). It honestly is nothing bad though, it just means that you have a great home you are looking forward to return to. Good news: this low will pass after the first month of being abroad.
Whatever you pack, it won’t be enough
First of all, I have no idea how I managed to put everything I needed into one regular-sized suitcase and a carry-on. Second of all, my suitcase weighed in at 22.4kg at the airport, just a few hundred grams shy of the weight limit. Yet, I still managed to pack the wrong things. I really should not have brought a curling wand and that much skincare items. Shame on me.
Culture Shock is a real thing
Depending on where you come from and where exactly you are spending your time abroad, this might take more or less time to settle in. I didn’t really move too far, the Netherlands is only a good 2 hours by plane away from Austria, but I sure noticed differences in culture as soon as I landed. People here are more direct and sober in a way, they tend to do everything not to draw attention. ‘Doe maar gewoon‘ definitely could be the nation’s catchphrase.
Cash is so last-century
Maybe this will not apply to other destinations, but I really struggled to spend cash here in the Netherlands. Not that I totally want to spend all my euros at once, but I initially brought cash with me just to be on the safe side. Anyhow, they hardly accept cash here anymore, debit is the way to go. Credit cards are not even accepted at the most common supermarket chain here.
One Last Thought
Whenever I got homesick or just a had a shit day when I was in Amsterdam I always felt like this shouldn’t be happening and I immediately managed to pull myself together and focus on what makes me happy. I surrounded myself with people I liked and reached out to them. Just reflect on this: Do you do the same when you have a shit day at home? My answer would be no. At home I would go through a whole week that didn’t have one happy aspect and I just went with it. I feel like being abroad really taught me the power of how our attitude and thoughts alter our reality.
What are some things you wish you had known before going on a semester abroad?