This is what people don't talk about when they talk about study abroad, the mental aspects of it.
Study abroad, this is about to be one of the most amazing as well as challenging experiences you will ever face, plain and simple.
You are going to see places that you have only seen on Instagram, experience things you never thought you would and meet some amazing people.
You are also going to be pushed out of your comfort zone from the time you wake up to the time you call it a night and you are also going to face some great mental challenges.
These mental things are what a lot of people don't talk about, yet while I was abroad I saw almost everyone experience these in some form or another.
From riding the wave of emotions after that initial excitement wears off and you realize how long you are actually there for to struggling with mindsets around not experiencing anything new, just talking to people from home and counting down the days until you are back.
These are the untold truths about study abroad and how amazing, yet challenging it will, yes "will" and not "can," be.
And as always, thanks for popping out to the 24/7 mind trainings on the blog today! MMNTM (/mo-men-tum/) is the first of it's kind... a gym for your mind! Everything from daily training on the blog (www.yourmmntm.com/blog) to workouts and more for your mental clarity, mindset and happiness.
Now back to the good stuff...
What to Expect
My Study Abroad Experience
The mental and non-mental sides.
So, what merit do I have to be talking about this?
Other than studying abroad in both Italy and South Africa, and soon to be Dubai in the spring, I have also went abroad while having a girlfriend (which adds a whole new ball game to the mental challenges) and experienced probably every emotion you could while abroad.
Initially, the first month or two are straight up unforgettable as you are experiencing so many new things and making a ton of new friends and honestly the school work is not hard at all.
After that initial peak, you start to really settle into the day to day life there and stop going out every night and doing things every single weekend. Couple this with the fairly minimal class compared to back home and this leaves you with a large chunk of downtime that can be good or bad.
You are left with your thoughts a lot, as not everyone is trying to do group activities every day anymore, more like just a handful of times a week, so you come to the realization that you are actually living there and are going to be there for a long period of time.
These are when my emotions started hitting, other than just missing my girlfriend, and I started to just count days until I was home. This was really weird to me because I love to travel so experiencing this for the first time was interesting, but it ended top just being a "phase" that you get through.
When you start counting the days, spending too much time on social media thinking about what everyone back home is doing and what you are missing, you really start to impact your experience there as you don't want to do as much as you wanted to do when you first landed, so you don't.
Also, you don't really think about this before you leave but with the time change, you aren't going to be able to talk to your close friends back home as much, or they might not be awake until the afternoon for you, leaving you with more time with your thoughts.
Study abroad is not about doing everything 24/7 because you just can't. The budget can't support it and you will just get worn down, you end up with a lot of time on your hands much like you would back at your home school. It is about learning to survive in an unfamiliar environment, meeting new people, experiencing every aspect of a whole new culture and most importantly learning more about yourself.
But, eventually this phase cleared for me and many others and we really started to enjoy the day to day of just surviving in that new country, interacting with locals and going to the gym. It wasn't new anymore and we weren't doing something every hour of the day anymore either, but we were really enjoying our time.
You really start to feel like you belong and can "hold your own" per say, in this new culture and it starts to feel like home.
And then you have to leave this new place that your mind started to associate with "home" and come back to another culture shock, just this time in your own country.
Honestly, this might be the hardest part of study abroad and out actually made me a little depressed during the winter months when I got back.
Home just doesn't feel like home yet and even though seeing your best friends is amazing, it's almost weird because you can't keep talking about the same people you were talking about or telling stories about during study abroad because they just think "who the h*ll is that."
This is the wave of emotions during studying abroad that I faced and many others I was with faced the same, either during similar times or on a totally different time table.
What Almost Everyone Does Wrong While Studying Abroad
And What I did Wrong...
In my opinion, it is all about the mindset going in.
If you are going into study abroad still thinking about what you are going to miss at home or talking about how much you wish your friends from back home were there, you are going to limit and even hurt yourself.
Because you will constantly be focused on the past and not your new experiences in the present and will only really care about talking to your friends back home.
Everyone is living their own life, catch up with them a handful of times a day but don't structure your days around talking to your friends back home as that is what I saw many people doing, myself included for a while.
Also, don't have the mindset of going to do things just so you can get the "picture for Instagram" because all you are going to be thinking about is trying to get the coolest picture for social media that whole time and not really experience what it is that you are doing.
Sure, post updates on social media, but don't go abroad for the sole reason to try and make your Instagram look better because you will not experience almost anything in the culture you are in when all you care about is the pictures of cool places. Ultimately, you will miss the ,most important experience of them all: learning about yourself.
Finally, I think that the biggest challenge for studying abroad is the fact that too many people think they are just going to be somewhere amazing every weekend or doing something cool every single day, when that just isn't the case.
If you think this and you start coming to the days where you aren't doing as much as you were in the beginning, you are going to get depressed as it "wasn't as fun" as you though it would be and just want to go home.
How to Properly Ride the "Wave" of Emotion
As you might remember me mentioning that timeline of emotions during study abroad, going from the initial excitement to realizing how long you are there for and then finally feeling comfortable and embracing the experience, I wanted to share how you can better ride that wave of emotions as they come at you.
The biggest tip here is not to try and avoid the emotions at all costs but to rather embrace them as they come.
It might sound counterintuitive but they are going to come no matter what, it's just the way our mind works. So, might as well recognize them and realize that they are just a phase and it is no reason to ruin your whole experience.
This was a problem with me for a few weeks at one point abroad, that I had some homesick feelings and was a little depressed and did absolutely nothing but watch Netflix and count down the days.
Instead of doing that, recognize the feeling and know it will pass and just try and get out and stay experiencing the culture.
As for when you come home, those are a whole new wave of emotions to ride as you really need two things: time and reflection. Give yourself time to adjust back because you have known your culture at home your whole life, it is nothing new.
At the same time though, make sure you are meditating and/ or reflecting on what you learned, what you can take away, how you have grown and more each night for probably a month after you get back to fully experience all the growth you have experienced.
Why You Need to Spend Some Time Alone
This is a game changer while abroad.
Okay, I did mention this above, how you will have more time alone in the middle of your experience and end of your experience and that really isn't a bad thing.
It gives you time to focus on going and doing some things on your own and doing some traveling on your own maybe to really challenge yourself.
Being able to navigate a new culture alone is much different than with a group as you have that person to fall back on for help if you are in a group and you are just more comfortable in a group.
When you are alone you really have to do everything on your own and you aren't comfortable at all...
This is where a top of growth happens so embrace that time alone even if it is just going on a walk, going to get eat or going to get groceries.
Good Mindset Practices to Employ While Abroad
Actionable advice at the end of the blog as usual!
Here is a solid list of some things to practice and do while you are abroad to ride that wave of emotion better, have a better experience and experience more growth.
And at the end of the day, just have f**king fun! This is a once ion a lifetime experience, stop stressing and just like because life is amazing, especially when you are in a new place experiencing it with new faces!
Thanks for stopping by the blog again and I would love to hear where you are traveling to below in the comments!
As always, stop back daily at yourmmntm.com/blog or just on social media @yourmmntm
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