Having hit the one-month mark, I have noticed that I keep experiencing the same situation. When talking to my friends and family, I always get comments like “you are thriving,” “you look so happy,” “I’m so jealous of you,” and “you are so lucky you are not at home.” I don’t disagree with these comments, but they aren’t how I feel every single second of being in Sweden. My travel Instagram, my TikTok, and this blog tend to highlight this trip’s best moments. I didn’t post a picture when I was holding back tears in the airport because I wouldn’t be able to go to my host family’s apartment that first day. I didn’t record myself crying on the phone to my mom about being alone in a single room in temporary housing. I don’t elaborate on how navigating this city can be overwhelming. And I haven’t made a TikTok about feeling left out sometimes because many kids in my program already know each other from college or home.
Let me be clear: I am having a wonderful time, and I am so thankful for this opportunity; but being abroad isn’t easy, nor is it supposed to be. This is the second time I have traveled to Europe, and this time, I am doing it alone. I have come to a place where I do not speak the language, do not know the city, live with a host family, and take classes with new peers and professors. Often, it seems like studying abroad is branded as a blissful and carefree experience. When I had seen pictures of people I know who had gone abroad, each and every one seemed to be magical; a pretty picture of someone smiling, a fantastic view, or a mouthwatering dish. No one seems to talk about the trials and tribulations of being in another country. Not every day will be amazing, but that’s okay! This feeling reminds me of the first few months of college, where everyone struggles to adjust, but no one ever talks about it.
While some days here are extremely challenging, I am learning how resilient I am. Every day is filled with new things, people, and experiences. I tend to be shy, so I keep pushing myself to speak up and figure things out for myself. But when I am stuck, thankfully I am supported by my host family and DIS, along with my family and friends from afar.
So for those of you who are thinking of going abroad, no amount of planning will shield you from mishaps. Things will go wrong, and you will panic. But it is important to remember that you will overcome. Your independence, confidence, and resilience will grow, and thank you for taking this leap of faith by going abroad!