Q&A: The Best and the Hardest Parts about Studying Abroad

We asked and you answered! We asked some of our bloggers the question:

“What is the best part about studying abroad? The hardest?”


Here are their observations:

1. Wifi Woes

The eternal lack of WiFi is simultaneously the best and worst part about studying in a foreign land. The likelihood of getting lost is increased tenfold. You are bound to get a few anxious texts from your parents demanding your response. You might get some peculiar looks when you find yourself wandering aimlessly through a city, staring desperately at screen-shots of Google Maps on your phone, and playing an exaggerated game of charades with locals just to ask for directions to the nearest coffee shop (to get WiFi). I’ll take it, though, because there is nothing quite comparable to the feeling of losing yourself to a city, stumbling into a beautiful secret off the beaten path, tucked neatly away as if it was waiting to be discovered by your wanderlust self. [Tweet this]

-Caroline Westberg, Brussels, Belgium (See her work here.)

 2. Language Barrier

It seems like a cop-out to say that the hardest part about my study abroad experience has been the language barrier, but it has been really freaking hard. [Tweet this] Anyone who has ever taken a language course has probably had their professor say something along the lines of “the only way to get better is to speak the language with native speakers” and they are 100% right, I’m sorry to tell you.  This is not to say that this barrier has tainted my experience in any way.  As a matter of fact, I think it has only made it better. Overcoming these obstacles, frustrating things like forgetting how to say “May I please have a spoon” or “No thanks, I’m allergic to peanuts”, is one of the most rewarding feelings I’ve ever had.  The people I have met abroad, English and Spanish-speakers alike, each have amazing stories and reasons for traveling and they continue to surprise and inspire me every day.

-Joselyn Rojewski, Heredia, Costa Rica (See her work here.)

 3. Transience 

Several weeks in I established something like a routine, but quickly realized that’s not what I came here for—I came here to explore! That has to be the hardest part of studying abroad: contentment. There’s a bit of a lull that no one tells you about which is when you have limited time in a new place and want to make the most of it, but it no longer feels new or exciting and you have a cold and it’s raining out for the millionth day in a row…The way time passes so quickly over a few short months, not to mention the mountains of history we have seen, reminds me everything is temporary, and that is the best part of studying abroad. Some things matter more when we know we will not always have them. [Tweet this]

-Joshua McKibbin, Thessaloniki, Greece

 4. Furry Friends

The hardest part about studying abroad is missing your pets–they can’t use WhatsApp to send you a “miss you/how’s life going” text and when it comes to FaceTime they become irrationally useless creatures that seem to get “stage fright” when the camera is on them. Honestly it’s so difficult to choose the best part of studying abroad. From meeting super cool people almost daily, to embracing new, delicious food, to SPEAKING a different language. But I have to say the best part about studying abroad is exploring. Explore your city! Go on the excursions with your program! [Tweet this] 

-Kathryn Cacchioli, Sevilla, Spain

yzu1CGEoRQ6IE7yj8rc9_IMG_8812 copy

 5. “Parisian Me”

I was pretty sure I knew what “Parisian Me” would be like. I was going to get off the plane and immediately look like Audrey Hepburn, dress like Coco Chanel, and spend every day sipping espresso in cafés and walking along the Seine with beautiful French boys while “La Vie en Rose” played in the background. In reality I’m not wearing nearly enough black to fit in here, getting lost constantly, failing to love espresso, and can’t speak French nearly well enough to flirt with French boys. Some guy playing accordion on the Metro makes up the soundtrack of my life. But life here is full, intriguing, challenging and beautiful and I’m living it with sore feet and a happy heart. [Tweet this]

-Maggie Panetta, Paris, France (See her work here.)

6. Flex-ability

I find that the best and worst parts of study abroad are the same: it is the things that you’re not used to. At the best of times this entails new adventures, people just like you but in a different place, or making strange things familiar. However, when feeling overwhelmed with culture shock or homesick for your mother’s cooking, these exact novelties can feel like the end of your world. Rolling with the punches is the most important lesson of living on your own in another country, and I know it is a skill that will serve me well in any and all experiences in my future. [Tweet this]

-Hayley Barone, Leiden, The Netherlands

Are you a student studying abroad with ISA or an ISA alum?

We want to hear from you!

For the next question, we wanted to start a conversation by asking: “What have you learned about your own [American] culture since you’ve been abroad?”  Leave your answer in the comments below! If you have more to add, free free to email your 50-100 word response to sflowers@studiesabroad.com, which could get featured in next week’s post. We ask that submissions are positive and include new+innovative observations about your time abroad. The deadline is Sunday, April 5th.

3 thoughts

  1. Getting lost in a city is the best thing that can happen to someone on their study tour abroad. It triggers a lot of hormones and tests our strength at its deepest level. In some cases it might be very risky, but still It’s an exciting thing to happen.

Leave a Reply