I don’t really understand why nobody seems to make a bigger fuss about studying abroad. It’s an experience that a lot of college students today are lucky enough to have. But it’s still deeply obnoxious when everyone just tells you: you’ll love it, stop worrying, it’s silly to be nervous.
NEWS FLASH: It’s not silly to be nervous. Moving to a foreign country to live and study for three to five months is an enormous transition, especially if (like me) you aren’t well traveled.
When I was a kid my Girl Scout Troop used to go to Six Flags for the day and I would never go on any of the roller coasters. I was more than happy just to sit on the platform and hold everybody’s flip-flops, and I never felt like I was missing out on anything because I knew that roller coasters scared me. Clearly, stepping out of my comfort zone is not my forte.
Over this past summer (literally months before I left), I would lay awake until the wee hours of the morning, dreading my January departure date as if it were the very next day. I’m not a person who likes doing things that make me uncomfortable if I don’t have to, and the idea of leaving my family and tight-knit group of friends for such a long time made me incredibly anxious.
Now, I’ve been living in Madrid for 2 weeks already, and of course I do love it. Studying abroad is simultaneously the most terrifying thing I have ever done and also the most fun. It was a risk that has been well worth taking, and it’s honestly improved my quality of life.
Here in Madrid I have no cell phone service or Wifi except when I’m at school, so I can’t be glued to an iPhone or laptop screen all day and night. As a result, I’ve paid better attention in class, had more time to explore and made some great friends.
As I waved goodbye to my family and walked through airport security two weeks ago, I remember thinking “Oh my god, I’m not going to make it.” 2 weeks later, I’m happy (and kind of pathetically proud) to say that I’ve made it and I love it! Now I know that I would have never realized what I was missing until I forced myself to step out of my comfort zone…and into the whole wide world.
Image: Budget Travel