Worries and Fears of Studying Abroad

Julia Madine is a student at Stockton University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Bangkok, Thailand.

Lets face it: with all the excitement of traveling and learning about new cultures, there is this underlying anxiety that you can’t seem to shake. It’s okay, though – this is normal. You are highly anticipating an unknown territory, and it’s nearly terrifying. Your heart is encouraging you, but your mind is nagging at you: “What if I can’t communicate with anyone from home?” “What if I get sick?” “I’m afraid of culture shock!” “What if I fail my classes?”

Don’ worry, I’m here to ease your mind.

Not everyone may have this question, but for us safeguarded kids, this is a big deal! “What if I can’t communicate with my friends and family from home? I’m going to be left feeling alone with no one to relate to me!” This was a big worry for me coming to Thailand. Would the time difference match up? What if I have to ask my mom if my eggs are expired? What if I get bit by something– what do I do?!

  1. I promise you will be able to communicate with everyone.
  2. I promise you won’t need to.

Learning a new culture is more involved than you think. When you get to your destination, you will meet so many amazing new people that want to travel and see all of the place you have always dreamed of. You will be so busy that you won’t even notice that your phone died 3 days ago. Just think: you picked this destination to study abroad for a reason, just like all the other foreigners around you. You’ll be comfortable and have friends in no time! And all those silly questions you had to ask your mom? You figured them out all on your own.

My second biggest worry coming to Thailand was what if I got sick from the food or water. Traveling to a country that has unpotable water doesn’t have to worry you, but it doesn’t hurt to stay aware. When your food is being prepared, keep your eyes open for cross-contamination. You don’t want the cutting board that your fruit is being cut up on to be the same as the one raw meat was just cut on for the customer before you. Make sure that the fruits and vegetables that you are ingesting are being cleaned with filtered or sanitized (boiled) water. Also, if you are eating meats, make sure they are kept at their proper cooked temperature and don’t have bugs crawling all over them. If you don’t feel comfortable eating something, than don’t. BUT- don’t let being too aware keep you from trying new things.

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The #1 thing home schools seem to prepare potential study abroad students for is culture shock. Culture shock is not something everyone will experience, but it is very likely to happen in some way. When one is being placed far out from their comfort zone and is being overwhelmed with too many unfamiliar and confusing things, culture shock begins to set in. When arriving at your destination, it is very easy to get caught up in all of the new infatuations of your new life. Be careful to not let this infatuation distract you from your mental health. Take each new experience one at a time and let all the new information seep in fully before indulging in too much. I personally did not get a culture shock arriving to Thailand, but I believe it is because I took each day as it came and embraced everything fully as it was presented.

The main reason you are studying abroad should generally be about your studies. Many students look at studying abroad as an opportunity to go on vacation and have fun traveling the world- which it is. BUT, school needs to be your number one priority. Whatever classes they may be, make sure they are approved by your school. Once you have the “okay” that your credits will transfer, apply yourself and show up to class. Teachers understand you want to travel and they want you to have a great experience. Show up to class, apply yourself and give your teachers the respect they deserve and you won’t fail.

Studying abroad will be the best decision you have made in your college career. Don’t be afraid of it; embrace it.

The world awaits…discover it.

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