What I Wish I Knew Before Studying Abroad
Studying abroad is becoming more and more popular in college curricula across the country. I know specifically for UTK, studying abroad is a way to satisfy the “ready for the world” requirement for Honors Program members.
The thought of studying abroad might be an exciting thing for you, as it should be. But from someone who studied abroad, spent way too much money, and was in emotional turmoil the entire time, here are five things I wish I knew before I decided to study abroad.
1. It’s best to go with your university
Some of my friends studied abroad with third-party companies, and the most difficult obstacle they had to tackle was figuring out how to get their courses to count for credit at their university. If you don’t want to worry with this, attend a program sponsored by your university, with your university’s faculty. There will be no doubt when you get back about the credits you earned.
2. Know how much money you’re spending … and where it’s going
After being in Germany for about three weeks, I realized that I had been way overcharged. When I requested a receipt from my university, they were unable to provide one. It was quite the runaround. Later, I found out they had charged everyone a “buffer amount” on the off chance that the program ended up being more expensive than estimated.
After six months, I was refunded that buffer amount, but I wish I would have looked into it earlier.
3. Being financially conscious is a good thing — most of the time
I traveled abroad with 500 euros in my purse and I had a goal of coming home with some left over. Sure, I used some credit cards, and I splurged on the delicious baked goods and strawberries, but what I didn’t do was spend money on making memories. I only studied abroad for about five weeks, but during that time, I lived as scarcely as I could. I was so afraid of running out of money.
There are two ends of this spectrum, and I was living on the money conscious end. Some of my classmates spent thousands traveling around Europe, while I spent the weekends studying and watching Netflix. I don’t regret coming back with money left over, but I regret not spending money on the things that would’ve created lasting memories.
4. Expect some emotional turmoil/anxiety/emotional breakdowns
Because I didn’t. And my trip was full of panic attacks. I wasn’t ready for what was coming. I didn’t ask enough questions. I wasn’t mentally or emotionally healthy enough to take surprises like, “oh, just kidding, you don’t have Wi-Fi.” Get ready to be flexible, and get ready to call your mom crying. If you’re anything like me, it’ll happen a lot.
5. Prepare yourself to change
I didn’t know how different I would be when I returned from Germany. I didn’t know how much I would miss being out of America. I also didn’t know how embarrassed I’d be to admit I was American. Despite what you may think, not all countries love Americans. (I went before Donald Trump was elected … I can’t imagine what it’s like now.)
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