Small Town Students with Big Dreams: Go Abroad!

by Marc Pereria, ISA Student Services Advisor

I grew up in a small town in northern Nevada… A really small town. We had a population of about 8,500, half a dozen stop lights, and the closest thing I ever saw to a traffic jam was that one time three other cars and I got stuck behind a tractor driving home from school.

Like I said, a small town. So, at first glance, I didn’t look like the typical student who wanted to study abroad. But once I got to college I immediately started preparing to study abroad in Yokohama, Japan, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world. Studying abroad was one of the best opportunities of my life and it gave me the chance to experience a world that was a far cry from anything I had ever known before.


When I returned to the United States my life had changed. I switched majors, got a job in the study abroad office at my school, and started planning how to turn my time abroad into a career. However, one thing I noticed was that the students who traveled abroad usually tended to come from larger cities, which is great, but the small-town students were (and are) generally underrepresented. This surprised me, as a small town student I know our sense of adventure is just as big as those of our city-slicker friends, but I know it can be a little intimidating to leave everything you know behind. So, here’s to all the small-town students who might feel a little lost or a smidge-bit concerned; some pointers to help you go abroad.

Finding the Comforts of Home

Is there something at home that you don’t think you can live without? Maybe it’s a double shot sugar-free vanilla cappuccino made with 2% milk from Starbucks or a stuffed bear from your childhood. Well, here’s a secret, Starbucks is everywhere, I promise. You’ll be able to find a lot of your favorites abroad. Want to know another secret? You’ll probably find at least 20 cafes that are better than Starbucks. And your stuffed bear? Take it with you! It’s always good to know there’s something familiar nearby while you’re exploring all the amazing things a new country has to offer!

ISA Pumpkin_Carve

Strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet

Meeting new people can be scary, I know. However, you’ll be amazed at how friendly people are. Going abroad is a great opportunity to learn about another culture and a new way of life. It also gives you the chance to share your culture too! Your new friends are going to have lots of questions about your life back home. Like, do we eat burgers for every meal? No. Does everyone in the United States own a gun? Not everyone, but some people do. Why don’t Americans put mayonnaise on pizza? Wait, what? These are all real questions I got while abroad, and they were amazing conversation starters.

Stay connected

This one’s easy. Skype. Use it.


The Fear of Missing Out (aka: FOMO)

The fear of missing out is a very real concern. What if something awesome is happening back home and you’re not there to witness it? You’ll be completely out of the loop when you get back! Well, I went abroad in 2009 and do you know the biggest thing I missed? Snookie became famous. Now, I can hear you asking, “What’s Snookie?” First, she’s a person. Second, she doesn’t matter anymore, so did I really miss anything? Nope.
Your friends will be the ones with FOMO when they see pictures of you scuba diving in Colombia, checking out the latest trends at Paris Fashion Week, or snowboarding in New Zealand. Leave FOMO behind and go have an adventure.

To wrap it all up, studying abroad is an amazing opportunity and you shouldn’t let anything stand in your way. ISA offers over 250 programs, so you’re sure find the perfect program for you. Take a look at our Program Search or give us a call and we’ll get you all set up with the perfect program fit! Remember, just because you’re from a small town doesn’t mean you can’t have a big adventure. Get up, Get out, and go.

Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.

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