As I am wrapping up my abroad experience, I believe I can best provide tips, advice, and suggestions while I am caught up in my reflections. This journal is especially geared towards first-generation, low-income students. If you’re reading this: I am so proud of you and I hope you are excited for some of the most exciting times of your life!
First, I would like to highlight something that I had to keep reminding myself during my time abroad. Just because you are given (that is, earned through hard work) this wonderful opportunity – which is something that you acknowledge many people in your inner/familial circles may not have – does not mean you should feel pressured to say “yes” or agree to everything during your time abroad so as to make it “the best time of your time.” Many times, the other students in my study abroad cohort wanted to experience night life / nightouts that I did not want. This does not mean that I never went out at night with them. I did for the first couple of weeks, and quickly realized that that night life was not what I wanted for my Saturday nights. I wanted to eat/make dinner with my host family, listen to music with them, or follow them around to run errands. This did not mean that I was “missing out” or “isolating myself.” On the contrary, I was participating in calm, unique experiences with a host family I was learning a lot from (even if my family is also from Mexico). “Simple” activities do not mean “boring/lame” activities, and if you feel that you do not “click” with or “vibe” with the students around you, it is okay to step away and find spaces and activities that make you satisfied with your time abroad. This is especially important when you are not comfortable with certain expenses. Study abroad is an opportunity to learn and make memories, but they do not necessarily/always have to be “the best months of your life” or “out of this world” moments.
Second: take classes that interest you! As someone who is double majoring, at times I felt overwhelmed about returning to campus in the spring because I need to ensure I don’t fall behind on requirements to graduate. However, your time abroad is an opportunity to take classes that might not be available at your host campus, so make sure to enroll in classes that you will be eager to participate in – don’t just enroll in classes to cover major/graduation requirements. Of course, every college has different requirements for your time abroad, so make sure to communicate your wants, needs, and expectations with your study abroad advisors/office before committing to a program. It’s okay for a host city/program to not be what you want it to be – you have time to explore the world!
Lastly, it’s okay to keep in constant touch with your family/friends back home. I called my family/friends almost every day during my time abroad and even though some people judged me for it, I believe it was a crucial aspect of my personal daily reflections. My inner circles at home know me well, so it was easier to communicate to them my feelings/thoughts more freely. Talking to people from home allows you to consciously reflect on basic events of your daily life abroad, and is especially important for first gen students seeking a support group.