One of the major themes that any study abroad student will face, is what I like to call a tug-of-war, a personal dilemma that someone has. It is when a person wants something and yet at the same time doesn't. The topics can range, but all deal with many issues study abroad students face.
One topic someone might find hard is leaning to explore the new culture they are in, to see more places, and meet more people. This person may want to experience the new culture, but they may also have fears that are holding them back. It is as if they are saying, “what are you kidding me, experience this new culture?! I want to stay right here, and don’t plan on budging anytime soon.” These fears take time to get over and it takes time to learn to how to handle them. But with the game of tug-of-war you learn to give and take. A little exploring here and a little down time there are good, too.
Another theme that students usually face is wanting to return to a sense of normality, such as home cooked food, their family, and their friends. In reality, this so-called “normal” is just what we are culturally used to. It is something we are so used to, in fact, that it feels comfortable and we don’t normally realize it until we are in a new situation such as study abroad and then we find that what was normal was taken for granted. Thus when faced with something it can take a lot of energy to be open to the new experience because it doesn’t feel normal.
To some people it may seem odd that study abroad students don’t have the time of their life 24/7 while in a new country, because that is what everyone wants to hear. The reality is, that is never really possible. It makes sense that things will be hard at times or won’t go right; just because someone is in a new country doesn’t mean that things will be easy, in fact they usually are harder! Life happens, the good and the bad are there no matter where you are. Probably the best thing a study abroad student, or anyone else experiencing a new country, can remember is that in life you have to take the good with the bad and sometimes there will always be something that you wish could be a little different. In the meantime, remember not to pull too hard when playing a game of tug-of-war with yourself. Whatever battle you face, it will always come to an end and things will always work out, one way or another!
Stephanie Raso, class of 2013