Though everyone has their own unique study abroad experience, most students will encounter at least some of these satisfying moments.
No matter where you study abroad, or for how long, you are bound to experience some incredible moments that can only be described as “golden”. Adapting to a new culture and way of life while juggling academics and a social life can be difficult, but every once in a while, little triumphs will occur that make you forget about any stress or culture shock you have been feeling. These moments will make you feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to travel and learn about the world, and it’s these moments that truly add value to your study abroad experience.
1. Successfully Figuring Out A Foreign Metro System
Looking at a metro map in a foreign country can be intimidating at first, with all the different colored lines and random directions and names that you can’t pronounce. But after studying the map and using your logic to navigate where you need to go and how you are going to get there, you will feel like a more intelligent and competent human being. You may take a few wrong turns along the way, but once you reach your destination knowing that you figured it out yourself, you will feel like the master of the metro.
2. Feeling At Home In Your Host City For The First Time
Studying abroad means picking a new home for yourself, and this unfamiliar city probably will not feel like home at first. Eventually you will reach a point where you feel an overwhelming sense of comfort and understanding of your host location. It could be when you arrive back from a weekend trip and feel relieved to see familiar landmarks. Or it could be when the thought of returning to the USA makes you feel heartbroken rather than thrilled. The moment when your host country starts to feel like “home” is such a beautiful, enriching moment.
3. Leaving A Trip With Leftover Money
Budgeting represents an essential aspect of student travel, so most intelligent students will try to limit their spending on trips for logical reasons. After enjoying the wonders of a new city, finding spare money in your wallet at the end of the trip is an absolute relief. This means you were frugal with your money and you still made the most of your vacation.
4. Ordering Random Food Without Knowing What It Is, And Actually Loving It
Restaurant menus in foreign countries often have English translations, or usually a member of wait staff can translate, but some smaller, more local restaurants will not provide you with that luxury. If you don’t speak any of the language, sometimes you have to just point to something on the menu and hope for the best. But when your meal comes and it happens to taste delicious, you feel immensely grateful for the local cuisine and your ability to use your instincts.
5. Surviving An Overnight Bus
Overnight buses are the most painful yet perfect form of transportation for college students with limited time and money. Despite the cheap costs and time-efficiency of overnight buses, sleeping on a bus is never comfortable and you will most likely feel exhausted the next day. But after stumbling off the bus at 7AM and breathing in the fresh air of a new destination, knowing that it only cost you $20 to journey to a different country, you feel like you can do anything.
6. Realizing You Know Your Way Around
Every time you travel to a new city, you are willingly plunging into the unknown and relying on only common sense and map-reading skills to navigate you. But finally gaining an understanding of where you are can make you feel so accomplished. Maybe you’ve been visiting a new city for a couple days, and you find your hostel at the end of the night without a map. Or maybe a random passerby asks you for directions in your home city, and you can confidently point them in the right direction. This means you have mastered the layout of a foreign city, and directional skills are essential for any traveler.
7. Successfully Conversing With A Local In Their Language
Learning the language is one of the hardest parts of traveling, but after tripping through a conversation with a local using your broken language skills, you will greatly appreciate any studying you had previously done to prepare for this moment. Even ordering food at a restaurant in the local language is an accomplishment. Speaking in the local language makes you feel like more of a real traveler and not just a tourist.
8. Participating In Native Traditions
Every country has their own unique rituals, and experiencing those precious traditions can deepen your appreciation for new cultures. For example, I spent this past New Years Eve in Madrid, where I got to partake in the tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight (one grape at every chime of the clock). My hostel provided grapes for everybody, so every traveler could join in the tradition and truly feel like a member of the community. I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to embrace the native tradition with so many eager people from all over the world.
Be sure to treasure these moments, and realize how blessed you are to be experiencing all that this beautiful and chaotic world has to offer.
(As originally published on The College Tourist )