This past semester (fall 2018) I decided to accept an offer to study abroad in Budapest, Hungary. I have been here for just over two months, and I can truly say it is one of the most amazing and changing decisions I have ever made. Immersing yourself in a different culture can be so rewarding if you let it be. That being said, I see many people not allowing this to be their experience! This is truly heartbreaking because like I said, this experience can teach you so much about yourself but you just have to let it. Below you’ll find everything you need to know about studying abroad!
The number one, and I mean NUMBER ONE PRIORITY thing I can recommend to abroad students is to honestly linger away from people from your home country. You are going abroad for a reason, if you wanted to just be with the same people from your school you probably should’ve just stayed home. Now, I’m not saying you need to cut off all your friends studying abroad with you. What I AM saying is that you should really try to branch out and meet people from new countries! You can get such a unique cultural perspective if you push your comfort zone a bit and talk to someone from somewhere else. Luckily, most study abroad programs will make this process super easy for you. In my experience, the first two weeks of school were really just about acquainting us with other people. We had events, bar nights, pub crawls, dances, dinners…. like so many different opportunities to meet people. Even now, we still have weekly events to bring everyone together that have been coordinated by our program. Use this time to get out of your normal box of comfort and meet some new people. Not entirely sure about other places, but if you are in Europe this is a CAKE WALK. Not to generalize but honestly…Europeans are some of the most open and welcoming people I have ever met, so don’t be shy!
Next, pack accordingly! I know, it seems all like “woah I’m studying abroad I’m going to bring all these cool clothes that I never wear at home, cause I’ll definitely wear them here.” Wrong. I promise you, your desire to wear sweatpants and a v-neck every single day is not going to change just because you are in a foreign country. Chances are when you are packing you will have one checked bag, your carry-on, and your personal item. In your head this feels like a lot of space, but when you realize you are trying to pack for 4+ months it really isn’t much at all. What I can say is most important is to bring pieces you can wear in multiple ways. I packed my must-have’s, but I also made sure I packed a lo of basics and things I could layer like sweatshirts, v-necks, and cardigans. Also, research the weather of the area you are in before you come. Don’t bring only summer clothes if it’s only going to be warm two months (ok, me.) I was lucky to have my dad bring my coat when he was on business in Europe and got to see me, but most people don’t get this lucky.
Another thing to remember is that this is not going to be your home country. Everything is about to be so different, and that’s not a bad thing. The food will more than likely be different, as will the culture, the way people act, and maybe even the way people dress. Even though this may feel off and a bit uncomfortable at first, I promise it will be what makes your experience. Also, it’s important to remember that if you don’t adjust automatically, then that’s okay. I know so many people who had serious culture shock for the first couple of weeks and now they are having the time of their lives.
Last, and most importantly. Do every spontaneous thing, follow every crazy dream, do every bucket list item you want, and take in every single moment. I feel as if I have blinked and now I’m down to only one month left. This has truly been the craziest and most eye-opening three months of my life, and I don’t know how to handle leaving this beautiful city I love so dearly. Fall in love with your abroad city. Spend weekends exploring new spots and find your favorite places. Have Wednesday wine nights by the bridge, or take a weekend trip to Croatia to see that waterfall you’ve always wanted to see. Stay up too late, go out too much, ignore your parents asking if you are “actually” studying, spend all your money, and never blink an eye because it’s over before you know it.