4 Things People Don’t Tell You about Spending a Semester Abroad

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I was very apprehensive the few weeks before leaving on my semester abroad to Copenhagen. All the terrible things that could go wrong were on my mind, convinced that all of them would happen to me. Obviously I was overreacting and hardly any of the things I was worried about actually happened. But being back now, I would have quadrupled my bad experiences in order to quadruple my amazing experiences as well!

Throughout the application and preparation process of my exchange I did a lot of research. I looked through every possible exchange Pinterest post about what to pack, what to expect, the types of people you’ll meet, etc etc etc, but despite my research, not one that I found prepared me for some of the hardships I experienced. I wasn’t prepared for some things that I could and should have been so, even though there are a few hard things you will experience while abroad, it was all worth it tenfold. I would not have changed one thing about my exchange, other than maybe the fact that I had to come home!

4 Things People Don’t Tell You about Spending a Semester Abroad

How scary the first week is

After all my research, I was expecting to get there and immediately know that I had just made the best decision of my life. Not so much. I got there, couldn’t find my apartment, couldn’t get internet or the cord to connect to the internet for days, couldn’t read the signs at the grocery store so I couldn’t find anything, and the list goes on. It seemed to me that others never prepared me for the stress of the first week, before you get accustomed to your surroundings, start really making friends, and start doing fun things instead of sitting in your room wondering what the hell you just got yourself into. Obviously, I survived and it only got better and better from there, but on that first day, I was sure I had made a terrible mistake. Be prepared, the first few days to week will be difficult. But push through, get out of your comfort zone and be open to doing anything and everything, and I promise you it will turn into the best days of your life.

The stressful situations

This may be because it was my first time living alone in my life, but I felt like all of a sudden I was pushed way far out of my comfort zone. It was amazing to know that I could basically handle anything by the end of my trip, but I wasn’t really prepared at the beginning to have to conquer so many stressful situations while I was abroad. Be reminded that most things are not going to kill you. It’s okay to be stressed but don’t let it take away from your experience. If you need to take a few hours to get shit done and alleviate the stress, do it! It helps so much to take some time to figure things out and then join whatever is happening, just try to make sure you do whatever you need to do to feel better before it completely overwhelms you and you have a meltdown (trust me, that happens too!)

How sad the last week is

After I got through the first week, I was elated. I felt like the hardest part had passed. And then the last week came. All my friends started to leave and it turned into a big week of more and more goodbyes on a daily basis, with tears to go with it. It was traumatizing to watch these people leave that you had just spend enormous amounts of time with for the past 6 months and not know when or even if you would ever see them again. I was shocked at not only how many connections I made, but how deep they were as well. These people had turned into my best friends and it all suddenly came crashing down as you’re watching them get in the taxi to go to the airport. Be prepared, it will be awful to watch them go, and the worst part is there is nothing you can do about it other than plan a trip around the world. With the balance in my savings account after exchange, that won’t be happening for a while unfortunately.

How hard going/being home is

Now that I’ve been home for over 2 months, the emotions felt in the last week are magnified in some ways although admittedly a less in most. As people are having birthdays and doing big things, it’s hard to be away and not celebrate with them as you had done for the past 6 months. Being away from these people that you made such strong connections with is not an easy task. Readjusting into your real life at home isn’t easy either. You go back to work and school and coming to the realization that you will never again have a time in your life like that again doesn’t come with too many good thoughts. But, that’s what you signed up for unfortunately, and the only way to get through it I’ve found, is planning a lot of trips!

What did you learn on your semester abroad that you weren’t expecting?!

xx Victoria

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  1. Courtney

    This is very helpful! I’ll tell my friend about these tips because she wants to study abroad in college.


    1. Victoria

      I have a ton of exchange tips on the blog about things I learned while I was away! She will have the best time!


  2. Ashlee

    One of my old roommates spent a semester in London, and I was so jealous! She definitely said she missed being at home, and that the first few weeks was pretty scary. If I could do it all over again, I definitely would have done a study abroad semester. Great post!



    1. Victoria

      Yes, it is one of those things that most that didn’t do it wish they had! I had the absolute time of my life! Thanks Ashlee! xx


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