Study abroad…a hot topic across college campuses. Some people go to certain schools FOR their study abroad opportunities. Some say they are going to study abroad, but don’t and live to regret it. Some study abroad and suffer from extreme culture shock bad enough to send them home early. Honestly, choosing to study abroad is a personal choice (and obviously finances play a role too). I am here to tell you about my experiences and why I think everyone should study abroad.

Looking over my favorite city - Barcelona, Spain

Looking over my favorite city - Barcelona, Spain

I was fortunate enough to be able to study abroad not only once, but TWICE. I had such an amazing experience my first time, that by the time it was ending I knew I had to do it again. My first study abroad experience was my sophomore year of college, spring semester. I went to Barcelona, Spain - and fell in love with the city. I had been studying spanish my whole life, so Spain was a no brainer. I was a girl from a small town, so a big city appealed to me. I was honestly swept away. The food, the people, the culture, the drinks…the VIEWS omg the views. I have been back 5 times to visit since my last day of studying there, and am always thinking about it in the back of my mind.

My second experience was in Leeds, England. I was an accounting major and had to go to an accredited business school, so it was either England or Portugal. Portugal seemed too similar to Spain so I chose England. Again, an amazing experience. I met some awesome people who I am still friends with. And living in the dorms in England was great because there was no language barrier.

Celebrating my 21st in Leeds, England!

Celebrating my 21st in Leeds, England!

I honestly don’t really want to talk about cons because I am a firm believer everyone who has the slightest inclination to study abroad should, but as I mentioned culture shock is real. If you prepare yourself for the possibility of suffering from culture shock, I feel it is easier to deal with. Some tips I have for helping to mitigate culture shock are:

  • Pay the extra money if you want to bring an extra suitcase of stuff to make you feel “at home”

    • I suggest some non-parishable snacks

    • Maybe your own pillow and blanket

    • A favorite book/movie/music etc.

    • PHOTOS of your family/friends/pets

  • Regulary skype with your family and friends back home

  • Make new American friends in your new city so you have people who can relate to what you’re going through

  • Know that language barriers will come up, and you will get frustrated

  • Know that you studied abroad for a reason, not to have the same experiences as back home

  • Get out and explore your city, don’t wallow in your misery in your dorm

  • Anticipate things you might miss that you can bring with you (i.e. when studying abroad in England I found out they dont have ranch dressing - so my grandma sent me ranch packets)

  • Join a language exchange or get involved in some hobbies in your new city

  • Try not to regret your decision and have fomo of your friends back home, you have next semester

  • Before you know it you will be back home and probably miss being abroad

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

Another tip I have, before you leave write yourself a letter for when you return. Tell yourself the things you hope to learn/accomplish while you are abroad, and make sure to reflect on your experiences when you arrive home. Know that reverse culture shock is also very real, and was honestly harder for me than my initial culture shock. And lastly, the biggest piece of advice I have is - take LOTS of pictures, but also remember to please live in the moment. When I think about my best memories from college, a lot of them took place abroad, and let me tell you - the time truly does fly.

Paris, France

Paris, France

If you are considering studying abroad - DO IT, if you are not considering it, CONSIDER IT. I know so many people who have regretted not doing it. It really is a once in a life time experience.

P.S. please excuse my circa 2012 college photos of myself :’-)

Until next time



Kyrsti Tam