5 Biggest Mistakes To Avoid While Studying Abroad

By Marina Krivonossova on June 21, 2021

As a student embarking on their first study abroad adventure, you’re bound to be excited. Outside the confines of your home university awaits a whole new, breathtaking world of possibilities! But how can you ensure that you’re giving yourself every opportunity possible while studying abroad? As somebody who studied abroad twice (and I did it pretty wrong the first time around), I’m here to tell you the five biggest mistakes to avoid while studying abroad.

Sunny winter day in Amsterdam (image via Marina Krivonossova)

1. Sticking with the first person you meet. When you first leave your home university to study abroad in a foreign country, you’re bound to feel isolated, lonely, and nervous. It makes sense — after all, you’re literally starting fresh in an environment where you don’t know a single soul. However, no matter how scared of ending up alone you may feel, avoid latching on to the first person you meet at your study abroad destination.

Stay open to meeting new people, joining new friend groups, and traveling with a wide variety of individuals. By sticking with the first person you meet, you risk getting too comfortable, thus missing out on opportunities you would get by interacting with a wider variety of people.

2. Staying home all the time. I know you’ll probably feel exhausted at your study abroad destination, especially for the first few weeks. You’ll be feeling jet-lagged, overwhelmed by paperwork, confused by your new class schedule, and generally tired. But no matter how tempting it might be to stay comfy in your apartment and watch TV by yourself, don’t do it! Challenge yourself to overcome that initial study abroad exhaustion by going to mixers, attending events for new students, and putting yourself out there.

Beautiful church in Roermond (image via Marina Krivonossova)

The best time to mix and mingle is at the start of your study abroad experience, while everything is still new, and nobody knows anybody. If you put this off for too long, you might find that everyone has already spread out into their own little friend groups, and you’re stuck by yourself. Of course, it’s never too late to meet new people, but you’ll be doing yourself a favor by starting to put yourself out there early on.

3. Traveling exclusively outside of your host country. When I first came to the Netherlands to study abroad, the one thing on my mind was seeing every neighboring country. I was dreaming of Valentine’s Day in Paris, springtime in London, and summer in Barcelona. I embarked on all these adventures and more, and I don’t regret that part. But in doing so, I missed out on seeing so many amazing places within the Netherlands itself. Castles, forests, quaint little towns, and so much more — all unseen until I returned to the Netherlands at a later time. While I absolutely support traveling while you’re abroad (in fact, see as many countries as you can comfortably fit into your itinerary!), I also feel I should remind you that you shouldn’t be missing out on all the wonderful things your host country has to offer.

Flight of traditional Dutch ‘bitterballen(image via Marina Krivonossova)

4. Focusing too much on what you miss back home. When you’re in a brand new country all by yourself, it’s expected that you’ll experience some culture shock. And somewhere along the way, you’re bound to miss the way things were back home — the food, the people, the culture — all of it. But the worst thing you can do is dwell too much on what you miss, rather than focusing on the great things you’re gaining while studying abroad. In your host country, you get the opportunity to learn about how people outside of your home country live. You get to try new foods, embrace a new environment, and step out of your comfort zone.

The things you loved back home will always be there, I promise. But you won’t be able to get back the opportunities you let slip away by focusing too much on the things you miss, rather than focusing on the new things which you have gained by studying abroad.

5. Worrying too much. Before I came to study abroad in the Netherlands, I was worried that I wouldn’t find housing, that my classes wouldn’t be interesting, that I wouldn’t be able to make any friends, and so much more. I was making what was supposed to be a fun and unique experience into something that was stressful and draining. And, while there was a fair bit that went wrong during my first study abroad experience (ending up briefly homeless, losing hundreds of dollars on a trip that fell through, having to switch apartments spontaneously, living in horrible conditions, being forced to take a class I had no interest in, etc.), all that was overshadowed by the wonderful things that went right. I experienced proper independence for the first time in my life, I was taught to think on my feet without letting anxiety get the best of me, I realized that I saw a future for myself in Europe, and I discovered that things always have a way of working themselves out.

Art museum in Delft (image via Marina Krivonossova)

Studying abroad is a wonderful, unique opportunity, and I highly encourage everyone to try it out at least once during their college career. But in doing so, it’s incredibly important to let go of your inhibitions and prepare for a wonderful world of adventure and opportunity ahead. Are you ready to take the plunge and study abroad?

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