So for my international group post, I wanted to talk about my experience with the Global Engagement Fellows.
We are an incredibly intelligent group of kids. I am always in awe at the expertise that we share during our global engagement day! I presented on the panel “Student Stories from Abroad” and worried a little that I wouldn’t have enough information to share with the next group of fellows eager to go abroad.
As you might know if you have been keeping up with my blog, I studied abroad in Spain for only a short month. I was to talk for 10 whole minutes–it felt both impossible to condense the experience into that amount of time. Paradoxically, I worried about not having enough to share. Did I have enough useful experiences that I could foresee others encountering? What knowledge do I have that I could impart on others?
Calm down Jacob, public speaking isn’t so bad. Nobody can see that nervous twitch you get when you smile for too long. Probably.
Okay, here are the emotional aspects that I shared:
The time difference is really difficult. I remember waking up at 8 in the morning and talking to Peter while I ate breakfast until he fell asleep. He was the last connection I had in the US until about 2 in the afternoon when my dad woke up in the morning for work. Until then, I was alone in Spain. Yes, I had Fernando, my school mates, and teachers, but I still felt lonely.
Maybe you foresee yourself running into this! If so, try the following:
- Music! During the actual in-between times, music came in handy. I know you have some songs in your playlist that make you think of somebody or some pleasant memory. Indulge in those memories for the moment and feel that connection again! It won’t solve the issue of course, but it can alleviate some of the heavier feelings.
- Video calls! Make the best of the time that you do have with your family and video call them. Facetime was my best friend because I got to see my family and friends face-to-face. It makes all the difference in this world–really so much more effective than just a phone call. Some of the best times I had were trying to frantically translate between my parents and Fernando.
- Movie nights! If you can, coordinate a time with somebody back in the states and watch a movie over Netflix with them! Granted, it can be a bit difficult trying to find a movie that both regions have in common, but you’ll probably end up finding some weird movie that you can enjoy making jokes about.
- Host family! (If applicable) Your host family is there to support you. Get to know them well and share all those problems that worry you when you can’t share them at 3 am CST.
So that kind of turned into a general list of things to do for homesickness, but there is a reason for that. That in-between time was really only that bad when I felt started feeling homesick. Treat the homesickness, and that side effect will go away.
For the more concrete advice, some of the other fellows had really good advice:
For one, be absolutely positive before going that the credits for your courses will transfer! Otherwise you waste money (and we both know you’re a broke college student and paying off those loans will just make you bitter)!
Carry cash wherever you go! Many places will not accept card or issues with your bank could pop up at any given pace. Also, let your bank know that you’re going abroad. They might still flag some of your activity, so be ready become friendly with them.
When you’re traveling back or forth, try to keep everything that could possibly be questionable (even something as innocuous as a candle) in your luggage! Carry-ons should really only be for snacks or clothes.
Be familiar with the climate of your country. This ties into bringing the right clothes–it can be really expensive to buy a new wardrobe because you thought it would be warmer/colder than it really is.
Thanks to the other fellows for the great advice! Honestly, I learned new things in this forum.