What I thought I was in for…
This coming Thursday marks my 11th week of study here in Paris, France. Recently realizing that nearly half of my exchange program is over, I have begun to think back to all the anxieties, complications, and hiccups that I experienced during my very first week abroad. If I had to give one piece of advice in retrospect it would be: Prepare to be adulting for the first time.
To provide some background: I grew up travelling between Canada and Korea; I am an example of the new phenomenon called TCK, or third culture kid. My whole life has been a constant to and fro between airports, cities, and countries. Because of this, I thought that it would be easy to adapt and figure out this new place.
What I was actually in for…
What I hadn’t factored in was that I am now (supposedly) an adult. Legally at least, I am supposed to have my act together, fill out paperwork by myself, pay bills, buy tickets, apply for visas. I am no longer (technically) coddled by my parents.
Months before I departed for Paris my planning began in earnest. By some miracle, I ‘adult-ed’ my way through all the paperwork, interviews, phone calls, and emails to finally arrive in Paris on time, relatively unscathed, without any major problems. Unfortunately, that state of relief was short-lived.
Prior to departing for France I had heard horror stories about travel and moving abroad. I sensed that no matter how much you plan, something, SOMETHING had to go wrong. It’s critical to plan for the unexpected. In my case, it was my apartment. The payment didn’t go through and the landlord wasn’t going to give me my keys. It was also my phone. I had bought it before my departure but for no reason at all it decided to die on me. Thankfully, I problem-solved through both hurdles with only a few scrapes and bruises (and a few international calls to Mama Lee).
Avoid my blunders!
If I could give one piece of advice to somebody preparing to study abroad I would tell them Something is going to go wrong – but that something will pass. It’s Murphy’s Law with an optimistic twist I suppose.
Here are some ways to plan (and budget!) and be ready to ‘adult’ abroad:
- you’re probably going to pay more for certain things because you don’t know how to find the best prices; you’re probably going to run into cultural differences and language barriers;
- you’re probably going to make mistakes and trudge tongue-tied through difficult conversations;
- your first week is probably going to be a strange cocktail of general anticipation and optimism sprinkled with random moments of “I can’t do this. I’m not an adult. I need a real adult.”
During study abroad something is going to go wrong, maybe even a lot of things are going to go wrong. But whatever hiccups, setbacks, and hitches come hurdling towards your general direction, they will pass (they might smack into you a few times on the way, but I absolutely guarantee they will pass).
– Yeji Lee, University of Toronto, Sciences Po