Daily Embarrassments of Studying Abroad

Kristina Bjorksten is a student at the University of California, San Diego, and an ISA Featured Photo Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Lima, Peru.

One thing people don’t tell you about studying abroad, especially in a country with a culture and language unlike your own, is that you are basically living in a constant state of embarrassment. Adapting is not always smooth sailing when everything changes, but these character-building experiences make study abroad all the more memorable. Some of these great moments you might experience abroad include:

1. Not understanding what somebody said to you so you just pretend they didn’t say it and walk away

Paracas, Peru, Bjorksten, photo 1
Do you know what she said? Me neither. Okay, let’s just go…


2. Realizing what you said in class translates to something other than what you meant

Lima, Peru, Bjorksten, photo 2
It happens to the best of us.


3. Taking out several passengers when the bus races forwards then slams the brakes

Lima, Peru, Bjorksten, photo 3
Blew my cover. Now they know I’m not Peruvian.


4. Trying to go to the mall by your house and ending up at the ocean

Lima, Peru, Bjorksten, photo 4
I must have taken a wrong turn.


5. Falling down a mountain, rolling down a sand dune, or sinking a canoe in the Amazon river

These excursions have us doing all kinds of crazy things like walking.


6. Having to repeat, explain, or spell your very confusing name

Lima, Peru, Bjorksten, photo 6
This is our friend Becky


7. Walking into a Halloween weekend event being the only ones in costume

Lima, Peru, Bjorksten, photo 7
…it’s Halloween…


8. Dancing in public

Lima, Peru, Bjorksten, photo 8
Most of the Peruvians I’ve met at least know some salsa, bachata, or non-awkward dance moves in general. A lot of us gringos, or foreigners, not so much.


9. When cashiers ask you questions you don’t know how to answer

Lima, Peru, Bjorksten, photo 9
“¿factura o boleta?” ……huh?


10. Walking into a new gym in all your workout gear, asking to use the machines, then learning this gym is actually an equipment store.

Lima, Peru, Bjorksten, photo 10


As “estruggling” as it is sometimes, living and studying somewhere new is an opportunity to learn to laugh at yourself, and not to be afraid of new things. So speak that broken Spanish– soon enough it won’t be broken anymore. Hike that mountain; the view is worth it. Jump on that new bus– you will find your way home eventually. When you can take on the challenges of throwing yourself into a ten million-person Latin American city for four months, getting lost or getting embarrassed stops being an excuse to avoid challenges to come. ¡Sí se puede!


The world awaits… discover it.

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