My mom was asked to write an article about my study abroad preparation. She, in turn, asked me to write a mirror article so that you, dear reader, could see both perspectives and gain understanding from both the parent and the child. Maybe this will help you if your child ever decides to study abroad.
Who I am
I don’t remember exactly when I realized I loved traveling, but I learned the word “wanderlust” in high school and have identified with it ever since. I adore traveling; I like seeing new places and exploring. I like being able to touch history, try new foods, and have fun and unique adventures. I travel with friends and family; sometimes I go alone, much to my mother’s dismay. My dream job would be traveling and blogging about it. I’m currently I’m doing it on my own dime and not getting paid, but it’s still lots of fun. Check me out at wanderlustkscarlett.wordpress.com.
You can meet so many different people while traveling too. I have a talent for making friends so this aspect is always fun for me. I’m also a bit of an adrenaline junkie; I like things that go fast and are a little on the crazy side. In fact, my bucket list includes cliff jumping, sky diving, bungee jumping and more. When I heard about studying abroad, I was instantly drawn to it. It helped that my school offered exchange programs where my scholarships applied and my credits transferred. I could travel and study at the same time, making a great combination.
The planning stage
The planning was mostly on me, with some reminders from my parents about making sure I was checking into things and that I knew what I needed. I’m usually organized but sometimes things fell through the cracks like forgetting an important document and having to figure out where to print it only an hour before my visa appointment in Chicago!
It stresses me out when other people get stressed, so with my parents being stressed and getting on me about me not having somewhere to live along with, “Why haven’t you packed? You leave in two-and-a-half days!” really got me in gear. Though I’m the one who did the preparations, my parents lit a fire under me about doing them in a timely fashion. It would have gotten done no matter what, because once I had my parents on board, there was no way I wasn’t going abroad; I wouldn’t let that happen.
Battling homesickness with technology
In her article, my mom mentioned loving technology. It really is great, and I’m not just saying that because I’ve been exposed to it for a decent chunk of my life. Technology is a life saver! It can help when you get lost, it can help you find places to stay and to eat, it can help you plan all aspects of your trip. Mostly, I use it to keep in touch and battle homesickness. As I said, I love traveling but I’ve rarely ever gotten homesick. Sure, this is probably because I’m usually traveling with family, am not that far from home, and not gone for that long.
That being said, this trip does not meet any of the standards that I am used to. So while I don’t get homesick at school because I’m two hours from home, surrounded by friends, and crazy busy with classes and extracurricular activities, I’m missing a lot of that over here in Europe. I’m usually about six hours ahead of everyone else, which means I don’t hear from anyone until Noon at the earliest. I also only have classes here without any of the extracurricular organizations that I regularly participate in. Being less busy means more time to myself just sitting, thinking and missing home. When I left, I didn’t expect to be homesick, even though the Education Abroad advisers warned us that it would happen. Boy was I in for a rude awakening.
Being homesick is rough. My support system is more than 3,000 miles away and six hours behind time-wise, so they aren’t always available when I need to talk. On top of that, I don’t like talking about it anyway so I usually bottle it up.
I found that FaceTiming the people at home helps a great deal. I talk to my family via FaceTime once or twice a week; yes, I am guilty of FaceTiming my boyfriend more than that (sorry, Mom). I also call some of my friends every couple of weeks. One of these calls was with my two of my fraternity brothers who I hadn’t talked with face-to-face in three months. We were on Skype for five hours until they pretty much kicked me off so I would sleep! FaceTime also means I get to see my dogs which is great because people don’t really pet each other’s dogs in France (and that’s weird to me but that’s a totally different story). Long story short: technology, specifically video calling capabilities, really help you handle the huge distance and homesickness.
Expect the unexpected
Ha. This has been a theme with me since the start of the year when I went to Chicago for my visa. Things like to not go according to plan for me. This can be inconvenient, like having to postpone my Ireland trip three months or sitting on the freezing cold floor in Union Station for hours because my train was delayed because of ice (both of these examples were caused by winter weather … maybe I should avoid that). Sometimes delays can be fun; my extended stay in Edinburgh let me make a bunch of friends with the other people staying in my hostel.
These situations led me to my biggest travel tip that I will be sharing continually until forever because it’s so valid: Pack your patience. This can be hard sometimes, like when I was in Edinburgh freaking out about getting back to Nantes in time for class and my mom was an ocean away telling me to chill out (a bad joke considering the weather at the time, I know). But packing your patience is so essential. It helps you find a solution to your problem faster because you aren’t freaking out. It also makes a more pleasant experience for you and those around you because you’re calm and rolling with the punches. Plus, you never know, these crazy situations might bring about good things like personal growth (I’ll get off my soapbox in a second). Being put in situations that were very stressful made me a better critical thinker, and more patient and understanding because everyone around me was facing the same difficulties and having to find a way out. So now that you’ve read this, the number one thing on your packing list, study abroad or not, should always be your patience.
As for strength, I knew this experience was going to be rough on my mom, partially because she told me a lot that it would be and partially because it was going to be difficult in general.
I didn’t expect to be overwhelmed my first day in France trying to weigh kiwi in the supermarket on a scale in a foreign language, but I was and I got through it. I know having me in Europe and not being able to help as much is stressful for my mom, especially since I’m the first one out of the nest. But we’re doing good! Less than a month left! (She’s been counting down since Christmas!) Communication and detailed preparation I think helped ease this a little for us, and it probably will help you too if your child is hoping to study abroad.
I’m not saying it’s the easiest thing it the world (that’s baseball), but it will be worth it. Your child will grow and learn and you will too.
– Katie Capozello, BGSU Analytics major. She is the daughter of Nicole Capozello, Beaumont Parenting Program Staff.