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Like most students longing to study abroad, you are probably also filled with high hopes, goals and expectations. Many times we find that the reality doesn't always match our expectations, but like most dreams, you need to let you imagination run free to conquer what you set out to achieve. Not to burst your bubble, but here are a few expectations international students have when setting out to study abroad and the reality of what usually ends up happening:
1st Expectation: You’ll be a native speaker by the end of your stay.
Reality: People don’t really have the patience to wait till you finish a sentence.
You enrolled at the best language school you could find to study German, Spanish, Swedish, Danish or French. You can already read and write and even order food in the language you are studying. You can’t wait to land in your destination and start practicing your accent on people you meet only to find out that most people you encounter speak English and prefer it too. Even when you start to small talk in a foreign language, most young people you’ll meet will switch to English since they don’t really have the patience to wait for you to finish a sentence, and they appreciate the opportunity to practice English, themselves.
Tip: Keen to practice anyways? Find a tandem interested in learning a language you are fluent in or join a language group.
2nd Expectation: You’ll visit museums, historical sites, art galleries every day.
Reality: You'll study all day.
Living abroad in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Germany, Spain, Switzerland or Denmark, won't change the fact that you'll still be a student without much free time on their hands. On the contrary, it might even make your studies harder by forcing you to also deal with language barriers, culture shock, along with other challenges. Between semesters and even on the weekends you might be available to squeeze in a short trip to travel in Europe, South America, the States, or Asia (depending on where you are), but during the semester, keep in mind that you’ll need to work hard.
Tip: Try to get most of your assignments done on the weekdays so that your weekends are free to tour around the city.
3rd Expectation: You’ll acquire local friends super-fast.
Reality: You’ll need to make an effort for that
Making local friends abroad is not as easy as you might think. If you think about yourself in your home country, how many foreign friends do you have? Abroad, you’ll find it easier to become friends with other international students facing the same reality as you are. Getting into a circle of local friends will involve some effort.
Tip: Get a hobby or join a club where you’ll be able to interact with local who share the same interests as you.
4th Expectation: You’ll return home with new eyes.
Reality: You probably will. Studying abroad will expose you to new experiences which will change you forever. What you do afterwards is up to you.
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