The Homebody's Guide to Studying Abroad

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Emma Verdi
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The night before I left for my semester abroad, I was terrified. I started to worry that I wouldn’t make any friends and that I’d be missing out on all of the fun things happening back in Chapel Hill. I kept unpacking and repacking my suitcase, worried that either I hadn’t packed enough or that I packed too much. Once I arrived in Madrid, I felt a brief lapse in my fears. The first week abroad is exciting because you meet a ton of new people while exploring your new surroundings. After that honeymoon period ends, you begin to realize just how far away from home you really are.

Studying abroad is daunting for everyone, but even more so for homebodies like me. I decided to take a leap and spent this past semester in Madrid, Spain. It truly was one of the most incredibly rewarding and unnerving experiences I’ve ever faced. Although living in another country is a huge change, there are ways to make your experience more comfortable. I promise that it is possible to enjoy a semester abroad even if you’re worried about the distance. I have a few suggestions that I will share in the hopes that it helps you feel a little more at home while far from it.

Old Habits Die Hard

One of my first suggestions is stick to your usual routine as much as possible. I found a lot of comfort by keeping up with my hobbies. I love to run and made sure to stay active while abroad. I even signed up for a half marathon at the end of the semester so I would have something to train for and look forward to. This will add consistency in your schedule, so you don’t feel like you have lost all control.

FaceTime Connecting

Another way to stay connected is to schedule FaceTime calls with family or friends to check in. There is nothing like a video call with a familiar face to cheer you up when a bout of homesickness comes along, but always keep in mind the time difference! If your family is able to visit you while abroad, it’s a great chance to show them around your new city and it can help break up the long stretch apart from one another.

Take A Day

In the beginning of the semester, I felt like I always had to be exploring new places every second of every day or else I was wasting my time abroad. I soon realized that it is ok to sometimes just take a break and watch Netflix. I also figured out where my favorite spots in Madrid were and got to know these well. Trust me, you begin to feel more like a local and less like a tourist if you’re in a city for enough time.

If the fear of missing out is holding you back from an international experience, don’t let it! Even though studying abroad is a step outside of your comfort zone, it is a great way to become more confident and independent while visiting some amazing places along the way. And if you ever happen to be in Madrid, eat some churros con chocolate for me.