Magical, a lifetime adventure, and long-lasting memories. These are just a few promises of studying abroad awaiting me as I prepare to leave to Osaka/Kobe, Japan for a year. With the late night study sessions with other students, exploring the rural areas of Japan’s mountainous landscape and getting lost in in language learning, I couldn’t wait for Summer to be over and start craving my path in Japan. My program fees were paid, Visa was applied for and my packing list was done before the end of June. So all the hard stuff was done, right? All I had to do was wait until the Summer was over and go off into the Land of the Rising Sun? In the meantime, everything is sunshine and rainbows, and I can daydream all about what my journey is going to be like, right? …..Right?
Well, some of it is true.
As studying abroad goes, most people picture students hopping on planes and seeing the world, complete immersion and exotic foods, and wondrous places. But what about before that first plane ride? What happens before the immersion? The language learning? Well, I’m hear to tell you, every student before they do all those great things, endure a period of just waiting, waiting for their journey to begin. This is before the adventure.
1. You Will Get Bored
Along with everyday chores and a part time job over this waiting time to go abroad, the days still felt so endless. One would think with studying abroad you’d always have something to look up about the country, or paperwork to do, or something. I felt over the past four months waiting to go to Japan, I’ve google searched everything there is to know about Japan. Sometimes I would go through a frenzy, Popular music in Japan, What to expect in a Host Family, What to expect in a Host family in Japan, What to wear in Japan, etc. I started to go through so many articles, podcast and books, one day I found myself waiting for something to pop in my head to look it up. After awhile, I realized there’s some things I just want to experience about Japan, and not read off a screen. I was done looking up videos and articles. And after while, I felt like my existence was purely to wait to go on my adventure, which left me empty and dreadfully bored.
How to combat boredom: So I decided to pick up a new hobby to keep me busy, an adventure before my adventure, which was figure skating. Living close to an ice rink and temperatures reaching 105 degrees, this was the most inciting option for me. I bought a Summer pass that came with rental skates, took a lesson or two, and started learning something new. It might sound like a great idea to just sloth around until you study abroad, and relaxation is very important before an experience like moving to a different country. But, if you feel your anxiousness is getting the best of you, why not learn something new? It could be anything, from walking along paths every morning, bug catching to just collecting an item. Don’t let yourself wait away months of your time. You could even volunteer! Have a mini adventure before a bigger adventure.
2. Life Will Still Happen
This was probably the most surprising lesson I learned while waiting to go abroad. When you’re always daydreaming how amazing studying abroad is going to be, you can get lost in what I call wanderlust. In Wanderlust, everything is magical, from talking to your friends and feeling good about life in general. You start thinking life is nothing but good vibes. For me at least, I began believing that since I was going on a wonderful journey, then everything in my life must/had to be wonderful as I waited to go. And surprising enough, it kind of wasn’t. My car broke done (twice), my family was going through some serious issues, and one of my part time jobs was being very difficult with me. I started to get really frustrated and annoyed that the world wasn’t catering to my desire to feel wonderful all the time, because isn’t studying abroad supposed to be like that all the time? Wonderful to me?
How to Combat Life: Honestly, this one took me awhile to adjust too. When you’re feeling like Life is becoming so overwhelming even amongst a blessing like studying abroad, I recommend talking to someone about it. You don’t always have to feel good all the time, even while you are abroad. I got caught up in feeling so fortunate, that I shouldn’t tell anyone or complain about how Life was for me. If I did, then I would be seen as ungrateful for what I was about to do. That is not true at all. I sat done with my mom, friends and myself and let myself be honest in how I was feeling. It felt like I was letting a big weight off my shoulders knowing it was okay to not always feel okay.
3. You Will Excite People
As I said above, most people see studying about as a wonderful adventure. They didn’t have to go through the endless paperwork, or the stress how you were going to pay for this darn trip, not even going through the most common dreaded question (Do you know the language?) over and over again. All they think is how awesome traveling is going to be, and probably, how they wish they could travel more. When you mention you’re going to a different country, it will immediately spark a smile and an enthusiasm, they themselves don’t know where it comes from. You’ll be kind of intimidating, but an overall welcoming presence of an expedition ahead. It’ll be as if they were coming along with you, and it’ll be not with just friends and family, but strangers too.
As a barista at Starbucks, I can’t tell you how many people wished me luck as I was talking about studying abroad with my coworkers. They would get excited, fire off question after question and always end with, “Well, have fun!” And if I saw them again, they would get excited all over again and ask about my packing arrangements. You will be exciting to a lot of people. I feel it’s important to mention this because in a way, this is a powerful position to be in. For a short amount of time, you’ve inspired someone in thinking about studying abroad, or at the very least, traveling. And isn’t that why we are going abroad? Yes, to do something different, the classes and lifelong friends, but also to see a different part of the world. Use those opportunities to encourage others to do something new. Share Your Story. You already have loads of insight and you haven’t even left the country yet.
There you have it. Studying abroad is a lot of things. I believe students study abroad way before they actually land in their country they will be studying in. It has already been a journey before the journey everyone will be talking about. I have already learned so much, and I’m still in the states, with two days to go. There’s no telling what I will learn next.
Until I’m in Japan,