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Study Abroad: What’s it like to start University in a foreign country?

Exchange student McKenna charts her first semester studying abroad.

Written by McKenna Gates and posted in opinion

This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for please contact

"Studying abroad before establishing yourself as a college student allows you to re-invent yourself "

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The transition from high school to university is an exciting time full of new friends, classes, and independence; but what if you challenged yourself to go a step further and moved across the world to study abroad during your first semester?

Suddenly your support system is gone along with all the comforts of home, and all before you’ve had a chance to settle into university life. The emotional rollercoaster that comes with studying abroad for your first semester ranges from overwhelming to exhilarating. However, the opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and test your ability to cope with adapting to a new culture is immensely rewarding.

Living on your own: no nagging parents asking where you’re going, no one to yell at you to do the dishes, no one to remind you to take out the trash. The idea of living on your own sounds fantastic… However, living on your own is much more than having the freedom to put your feet on the coffee table. Moving out of your parent’s house you not only assume responsibility for your health and living conditions, but you also learn to be a considerate roommate.

While you are trying to figure out how to minimize trips to the grocery store every week and a cleaning schedule, the smallest cultural differences will creep up on you. You can’t find your favorite brand of peanut butter and you are nearly run down by a bike when you look the wrong way crossing the street. These daily struggles are the exact challenges that begin to develop your understanding of the world outside of the comfort of your hometown.

The physical distance between you and your family and friends provides an opportunity for you to kick into survival mode, paint on a friendly face, and build a support network in your new environment. You’re more motivated to make friends and search out hidden hangouts. Maybe that’s when you find your favorite coffee shop to catch a quick nap in between classes or discover a nice patch of grass in the park. Studying abroad before establishing yourself as a college student allows you to re-invent yourself in the midst of a unique cultural experience.

Traveling is an outstanding way to develop cultural understanding. Your flexibility, creativity, and world-perspective will all be tested while you mature and enjoy the experience of a lifetime.

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Published October 10th, 2014
Last updated February 22nd, 2018
Tags university study abroad education
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