We all know that one person who seems to be living this super interesting and exotic life abroad. What we may not know is how they do it. Are they really having as much fun at their Instagram photos say they are? Of course, the answer to this isn’t really just yes or no. The truth is, living abroad is a life-changing and rewarding experience. However, it is difficult for many reasons. The first being that you can’t be home at the drop of a hat like many of us got used to during college. This applies to both positive and negative situations alike. It can be upsetting to miss out on birthday parties, weddings, holidays, and even worse, to not be able to get home if someone gets sick or hurt. I’m not saying this should discourage the decision to go abroad, but it is something to consider and prepare yourself for.
I decided to defer law school for a year to pursue my master’s in London, the same city I spent six months in just two years earlier during my semester abroad. I had already fallen in love with the city and, when the opportunity presented itself, it was a no-brainer for me. I spent the summer between college graduation and the start of my master’s course soaking up every second with friends and family at home on Long Island because they were a little disappointed I wasn’t moving back to New York after four year of undergrad in Massachusetts. While they were supportive of my decision, I kept hearing the same thing over and over (and still do, honestly, as I’m currently in the UK). They all say “well, I can’t wait until you’re back in NY.” While, it’s nice to have people who care about me, it can make it really difficult to enjoy the current moment.
So, how do I combat this and learn to love where I’m at right now? For one, I really established myself at my current university (King’s College London). I’ve been fortunate to make a bunch of wonderful friends who make this experience truly amazing. The other important piece is to keep regular contact with those at home. I try to FaceTime with my family and closest friends approximately every two weeks, if not more. In some ways, I feel like I’ve grown closer to some people from home during my time abroad. Being so far away really proves who wants to put in the effort to talk with you and it really gave me the perspective to appreciate the time I do get with my friends and family, both in NY and in London.
The next piece is about thriving academically. I am pursuing a master’s degree in Biomedical and Molecular Science Research and the degrees in the UK only last for one year. This means that I don’t have much free time because my schedule is jam-packed with courses, lab work, and dissertation writing. It’s critical not to lose focus and keep your eye on the end-goal. I’ve kept my good habits from undergrad and make to-do lists and plan my time well so I can accomplish everything I need to while still having some time to spend with friends or by myself. I learned very quickly that grad school is much more self-focused than undergrad and it can be difficult to find time to socialize since everyone is so busy with their own projects. For someone as extroverted as I am, this was quite difficult to deal with at first. But it gets better. So if your dream is to be the girl with the cool life abroad, don’t give up! You can do anything you set your mind to and the journey is totally worth it.