7 Things I DO NOT Regret About Studying Abroad

19 February 2013

In the past I mentioned some of the things I regretted about studying abroad and, while I'm glad so many found it helpful, I hated how negative I seemed to come off in it. I decided to follow up that post with something a little more on the positive side; the things I don't regret. When I studied abroad, I went to France for the entirety of my sophomore year of college. During this time I learned so many things about myself and truly grew as a person. Here is my list of 7 things I'm glad that I did while abroad:

Exploring Stockholm, Sweden
1. Learning how to drink
I don't think there's anywhere better in the world than Europe when it comes to learning how to drink alcohol. Like I said, it was only my sophomore year of college so legally, in America, I was not allowed to drink. I know most people ignore this but I decided to just go easy my freshman year and so I avoided the party scene. When I got to France, however, I came to find that the attitude towards alcohol was extremely different which provided a comfortable way of getting used to drinking and helped me avoid the binge tendencies of American partying. Plus, alcohol is so cheap in France, I really couldn't say no.

2. Keeping a long distance relationship
Now this one will be controversial. Nearly any other blog you read will tell you that keeping a boyfriend or girlfriend while you're abroad is a big mistake and that you'll definitely regret it. I'm here to inform you that that's not always the case. While it can be emotionally trying sometimes to be apart from your significant other and it does take time and dedication to maintain a long distance relationship, in the end I appreciated it.  Having a boyfriend back home kept me from being distracted by guys while I was traveling and eliminated other potential stresses (like possibly having to deal with an STD while abroad, that would be the worst!) I'm no longer with that guy but I don't regret staying with him while I studied abroad. If you have to make this decision, I suggest that you decide for yourself and don't just listen to what everyone else tells you.

3. Giving up being a vegetarian
This one is a little bit specific to my personal situation but I think you can interpret it as a metaphor in a way. Before studying abroad I had been a vegetarian for four years. It was a personal choice that I made for myself because, at that time in my life, I felt it was the right thing to do.  After being in France for one semester, though, I realized that in denying myself dishes that had meat in them, I was denying an experience of French culture. I eventually decided to start eating meat again and I've never regretted it for a moment. If I hadn't, I wouldn't be able to say that I've eaten raw reindeer in Sweden. I guess the lesson I learned in this is that you can't be afraid to give up something you previously considered a part of your identity. Studying abroad is going to challenge who you perceive yourself as and sometimes that means letting things go.

4. Studying abroad for an entire year
Maybe it's just my school but most students only study abroad for one semester or, even more popular, for a summer term. When I decided to study abroad I never questioned how long I would go; I knew it had to be for a year. My mother and I both agreed that, as a French major, I should stay abroad as long as possible to practice my language skills. I've never regretted this choice for a moment. Even though I missed out on a lot of fun things going on at my home university and left my friends behind, I also greatly improved my French and traveled to 14 countries in Europe. I would have never have been able to accomplish that in only a semester.

5.Traveling alone
Initially, I didn't like traveling alone. I always tried to get friends to come with me but they insisted it was too expensive to travel Europe (which, as I've talked about before, it's totally not!) So I set out to a foreign country all by myself and for the first time in my life, I was challenged to do things alone. I had to navigate subway systems in languages that I didn't speak, dodge sleazy guys, and deal with money issues but in the end I found a resourcefulness in myself that I didn't know I had. In my solitude I found a immense independence that has helped me mature into an adult. Many tried to tell me that, as a woman, I shouldn't travel alone but I've never had any safety issues!

6. Keeping a journal
To keep my family up to date with my travels I made a Tumblr account but I also kept a physical journal which I wrote in everyday about my more personal thoughts. It was tedious at times, especially after a long day when all I wanted was sleep but I wrote anyways. Where I went, what I saw, who I met, how I felt- I wrote it all down. This journal is now one of my greatest treasures and I love reflecting on it. Not only does it help me remember every detail of my time abroad but it also shows me see how I've grown as a person.

7. Getting lost
Ok, so this one wasn't ever really done on purpose but it sure made for some great stories! Like that time I got on the wrong train in Germany or had to find a way back to Copenhagen while in the countryside of Denmark, these unplanned events helped me learn how to be adaptable and deal with things that were unplanned. Plus, some of the best things are unplanned. Finding an adorable little cafe while wandering a side alley, befriending someone that you met because you got on the wrong train, or going out and getting a free dinner from the people you met in a carpool. These are some of the best moments.

What are some things that you DO NOT regret from studying abroad?

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