Thursday, May 7, 2015

13 Struggles of a Study Abroad Student

As my semester in Prague is quickly coming to an end, I’ve had the chance to reflect on my experience and how much things have changed in the last four months. I’ve honestly had the time of my life. 2015 has already been the best year of my life and motivated me to continue to accomplish my goals and make my life exactly the way I want it to be. This semester has shown me that anything is possible if you work hard enough and have the courage to chase your dreams. Also, when people ask me now what I want I want to do with my life, I know the answer. If I could be anyone, do anything, or have any dream job, I would definitely say I want to be a study abroad student for the rest of my life. Unfortunately I don’t think that’s possible, but I can dream. Studying abroad has been such an incredible experience with lots of great moments. Sometimes things can get hectic or difficult but in the end every second is completely worth it and totally amazing. I’ve compiled a short list of these said ‘difficult yet amazing’ things to try to hang onto the last few moments of my study-abroad experience.

1.       Having so many random kinds of money floating around.  It's in your wallet, backpack, coat pockets, etc. and you consequently know the exchange rate of at least 7 currencies off the top of your head. Then when you get home from a trip and still have some zlotys or kunas left but you don’t feel like exchanging them because you just know you’re barley going to get half of what it’s actually worth. On the bright side, it’s a good way to unintentionally start a foreign currency collection.
2.       Randomly speaking in your home country’s language when you’re definitely not in that country. Especially Czech. Because no one in Europe is going to have any idea what you just said. I’ve accidentally walked into somewhere and said “Dobry Den!” *strange look* “Helllloooo..(in your awkward voice because now they know you’re an idiot/American/tourist)”.
3.       Seeing a dog that you really really really want to pet but knowing that’s not a thing in this country. Seriously this is the most pet-deprived I’ve been in my entire life. I just want to pet and snuggle with a cute, fluffy, puppy. Unfortunately people here think that’s weird and are very selfish with their dogs… every now and then though a random dog runs up to you and you get that solid three seconds of happiness to pet them before their owner gets them away from you.
4.       Trying to decide which picture to instagram/facebook/whatever, especially now that your social media pics have gotten about a thousand times cooler. Since you’re currently gallivanting across the continent and visiting some of the most picturesque places in the world, you’re bound to have hundreds- maybe thousands- of photos filling your phone. Now you have to decide what picture exactly you want to post. When I first got to Prague, I had about 300 pictures on my relatively new phone. Now I have 6,123. Looking back, I’m really glad now I decided to go with the 64gb phone. Seriously on spring break alone I took over 1,300 pictures and only managed to narrow it down to 85 for my blog and only posted 4 on instagram. The struggle is so real.
5.       Becoming even more of a child hater. Okay this one is probably just me. But who brings their screaming two year old to the Vatican?! It seems like any train, plane, or bus ride I’ve been on I’ve been stuck right next to the crying child/ren. I’d really just like to sleep in peace and get through the torture that is traveling in quiet. *Note to my future self: Vacations are more fun without the toddlers. Hire a babysitter. Also, bring more earplugs.
6.       Trying to decide between eating a good meal or spending more on drinks that night at the bar/club. Most study abroad students don’t have an unlimited cash flow so it’s a constant game of budgeting, being cheap, and deciding what you’d rather spend more money on. It’s also ridiculously hard to stretch your money for an entire semester. In the beginning you’re constantly scrounging because you’re afraid you’re going to run out of money. At the end you suddenly don’t care anymore- because YOPO (you only Prague once)- so you suddenly start blowing money and doing whatever you want. Then you’re broke but we won’t talk about that struggle. You know it’s rough when the last week people are trying to figure out how they can eat on the equivalent of $12 for the next few days.
7.       When someone mistakes you for a local and tries to speak to you in their language but you’re too embarrassed to admit you only speak English so you just smile and nod and try not to make any more eye contact. Or when you try to speak to someone in a foreign language and then they say something else that you have no idea about and have to just revert to English and say “what…” Awkward. But at least you tried.
8.       Actually having to do homework or study. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the whole “travel, party, my-life-is-awesome, I’m-a-rockstar-and-don’t-have-a-care-in-the-world” thing. Then you get back from a ten day trip and have a presentation the next morning, a six-page paper, and an exam all due in the next 24-hours, none of which you are prepared for. That’s when you just crawl into bed- because hey you just got back from ten days of traveling- and pretend to die instead of actually doing work. The “study” part of studying abroad is surprisingly stressful to manage and rather annoying.
9.       Constantly dealing with public transportation and navigating in random cities. Don’t even get me started with night trams. Or the fact that the metro shuts down at midnight?! (Or eleven in Rome) Why do they hate us?! Then there are holidays and construction and suddenly you have no idea how to get from point A to point B because you don’t have a phone and the map you downloaded on your phone is highly inaccurate. Or you’re in Venice trying to navigate ridiculous streets and find bridges over canals, or maybe you’re riding a bike through Amsterdam and looking at your phone or a map will likely get you run over by a car or an angry cyclist. Either way it’s a struggle and you’re navigating skills will most definitely be put to the test very often. Because of this though your navigation skills are most likely on point and unstoppable by the end of the semester.
10.   Sitting down at a restaurant. Eating is just a struggle in itself half the time because you can’t even read the menus and therefore have no idea what you’re ordering, including and especially beer and wine because nothing is familiar. You also don’t know how that restaurant workds. Do you seat yourself? Pay at the front? Do they even take cards? Most of the time you just end up pointing at something and take what you get. Fortunately though, if you have an open mind you’ll get lucky and come across some crazy delicious foods.
11.   Also craving buffalo wings, enchiladas, barbecue, etc. You try hard to find something similar and you smile inside and try to tell yourself that it’s just as good as back home. But it’s not. So you deal with it and the craving hopefully goes away. But sometimes you’re left craving random things for weeks and it’s just a continuous sadness deep inside your soul that you try to ignore.
12.   Basically just never having any idea what you’re doing. It’s a constant in life to be utterly confused about where you are/how to do something/what something is/why everyone is doing something extremely strange/what is going on. Your life becomes one big event that you’re constantly winging and just going with the flow. Literally it becomes such a normal feeling that you don’t even question it anymore. You just embrace the cluelessness and suddenly life becomes one permanent adventure. It’s amazing.

13.   And then there is the biggest struggle of all. All of the sudden reality sets in and you realize you’re leaving in a matter of days. You now have to pack up your entire life into a suitcase and pray to god/cross your fingers/do a magical rain dance or whatever it is you do that you can actually fit all of your stuff into your bag and that it’s not overweight, which let’s be honest it will be so you’ll have to pay an ungodly amount of money at the airport. You also have to say goodbye to the amazing friends you’ve made and people you’ve met during the semester. That’s pretty much heartbreaking. And wait what’s their actual phone numbers? Also, you have to say goodbye and leave the remarkable city you’ve come to know and love. Heart officially broken and shattered into a thousand pieces. 

1 comment:

Theme by: Pish and Posh Designs