What Actually Happens When You Study Abroad?

Written by Kevin February 26, 2016

Snowboarding in Cortina!

I am now over one month into my study abroad experience…wow…..I still can’t believe that I have been here for a month! I think I say this in each of my blog posts but time is really flying because I feel like I just got here. Anyway, in a month one thing definitely hasn’t changed – studying abroad is one of the best decisions that I have ever made, for so many reasons I could write a book. If you are someone who is considering studying abroad then you’re off to a good start. So far it has been very different than what I expected, but instead of writing a book, here are a 5 things that will happen when you study abroad.

  • Take new classes

Ok, so maybe I’m not off to the right start but hear me out. Everyone thinks studying abroad is not about school at all, which is really not true. I think of the famous Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones quote who said “I didn’t come here to do school.” Many people think that it is just a travel experience with classes thrown in between. But classes are actually a huge part of the experience even if many students don’t talk about it. I have teachers from the U.S, UK, and Italy. This has been a great experience because each brings very different teaching strategies that I had not seen if I were to have stayed in the States. An example is taking a law class. We are able to compare U.S. and European laws, rather than just looking inward at U.S. law. Each teacher brings cultural aspects to class and can give different examples from their experience in European businesses that I would not have heard from my teachers back in the U.S.

  • Leave your normal routine

It is so easy to get stuck in the same routines back at home and at school, but being halfway across the world in a new place changes everything. For example, instead of waking up and rolling to class every morning I have started waking up early every morning. For anyone who knows me this is a huge change of pace – like a HUGE change of pace – but I really like it? (The jury is still deciding.) It started as jet lag but just stuck and I am happy it did. Also, traveling every weekend brings a new experience to each week when I come back to Paderno. It’s really interesting to see how immersing yourself in a new culture can change your routine each week.

  • Learn about a new culture

I almost didn’t include this because it was so obvious, but it is so true I had to put it on here. Learning about other cultures is so important because it allows us to change what we do and how we do it. Seeing another culture from a 1st-person perspective allows us to see what we like or don’t like about our culture and being in a new situation really allows you to make the changes that you want to make.

  • Learn about your own culture

This might not make much sense but it’s very true. There are things we do on a daily basis that I never really thought about why we did them until people from different cultures ask about American culture. An example, I talked to an Italian on the ski lift the other day in Cortina (the most beautiful place I’ve ever been) and he asked me why Americans say “what’s up” or “how are you” rather than simply saying “hi”, or “ciao” as they say here. And I thought why do we do that? I say that all the time and I don’t know why because most of the time people don’t even answer the question in passing. I know that’s a small example but it’s funny that you never think about your own culture until someone asks you about it and you have to explain it.

  • Experience true uncertainty

Uncertainty is one of the biggest challenges, will the train show up? Are we actually going to the right airport? Is my food going to come as I ordered it? Being uncertain about what’s going to happen and learning to be adaptable is one of the biggest things I have learned, you really have to learn to go with the flow and accept everything isn’t going to be exactly what you want, but the good part is it can be better than you wanted.