7 Things I Regret About Studying Abroad22 January 2013
Yes, studying abroad was awesome. If anyone were to ask me if I wanted to go back to Le Havre I would say yes in a heartbeat. However, not everything is perfect. Here are my list of regrets from studying abroad that I hope will help you get the most out of your experience.
1. Not really practicing the language
I think this was one of my biggest regrets. I had the amazing opportunity of being in France but I often avoided situations where I would have to speak French because I was worried I would embarrass myself. Though I did learn a lot of French and would consider myself near fluent, that was only obtained by listening and so my speaking is still weak. I became aware of this after spending 2 months in China and actually making myself use the language. It was amazing how quickly I picked it up after I started speaking and using it in contextual situations, instead of the simulated classroom conversations. I wish I had known that and not been so self conscious while I was in France because I know my French would be 10 times better if I had.
2. Not building my resume
Sure, the act of studying abroad in and of itself is a great resume builder but it's becoming more and more common place. To make yourself stand out to future employers you need to do even more. Being in a foreign country is a great chance to add something to your resume that shows that you can take initiative and are comfortable with cultural differences. I, however, did not do this. I went to class, did my readings, and hung out with friends. Looking back now I wish I had joined some clubs or even picked up a job. I had the time but I just didn't apply myself as much as I could have.
3. Not traveling locally
I studied abroad in Normandy, France. This is one of the most historical regions in the whole country. You'd think I would dedicate some time to seeing all the incredible sites in this area, right? No. I focused so much on trying to see all of Europe that I hardly even explored France. I mean, I was only a couple of hours from the D-day beaches and yet I never visited them. I still regret to this day not appreciating all the cultural heritage of the country is was studying in.
4. Not dedicating enough time to a city
In that vein, another one of my regrets is trying to see too much in too little of a time. The most time I spent in one city was a week in Rome and this was one of my favorite trips. Reflecting now, I realize that I loved that trip so much because I had the time to really explore the city. I did the main tourist attractions and smaller ones too. I even got to visit some historical cities just outside of Rome. This, however, was an anomaly for me as I usually "traveled" by running through a whole city in a day or two, snapping photos of the main sites, and moving on to the next city. I was so excited to see all of Europe that I didn't really see it.
5. Not trying something new
In general I'd say I'm a person with broad interests and tastes. But when it came to traveling, there were often times I assumed I wouldn't like something so I would pass it. At the time I had no interest in politics so for my trip to Brussels I totally skipped out on seeing the European Union. Looking back now, I could kick myself. I can't believe I willingly passed up the chance to see this and other significant places too. I wish I had pushed myself to try these things, even if I didn't find them interesting, 'cause maybe future me will.
6. Not doing research on a city
It's one thing to knowingly skip out on something but to unintentionally pass by is so frustrating! For my first solo trip I went to Amsterdam. I really didn't know much about the city but I figured I could wing it. Amsterdam ended up being my least favorite trip of my time abroad and a lot of that is due to the fact that the city seemed boring. After my trip I looked up more information on the city and realized that I had missed out on so much. I'm still so mad that I didn't go to the Van Gogh museum! Preparing before a trip is essential to making sure you get the most out of your visit and don't go home with regrets.
7. Not getting a phone
This item may not be as profound as the aforementioned advice but I still feel this is important to add. I tried to be as frugal as possible so I didn't get a cell phone in Europe. This ended up being a mistake since I often missed out on social events because people couldn't reach me. It also made it hard to maintain friendships since my only means of contacting people was Facebook. When I was in China I got a cheap cell phone and noticed the drastic difference between my social life in Asia and that of Europe all because I could contact and coordinate with others. It's definitely worth the investment to keep up with your friends.
As you can see, all of my regrets stem from the thing's I didn't do. Being bold and taking a chance is the best way to ensure that you'll complete your time abroad with out any remorse.
Do you have any study abroad regrets?Also, if you enjoyed reading this, check out my post on the 7 Things I DO NOT Regret About Studying Abroad.