In previous semesters, I would see many of my friends from Arcadia travel abroad to their dream destinations. Their pictures were mesmerizing, their Snapchats made me jealous, and the way they raved about it all when they came back was an encouragement for me to want to study abroad. What they didn’t talk about or post online, however, was the actual study part of study abroad.
In the preparations that came with studying abroad, I was warned that many students often forget about this not-so-fun part of the experience. The experience is amazing, nonetheless, but since I am now fully into my classes and work, I can say that the study part does take up a good chunk of my time here. In fact, it takes up most of my time here.
Now, I don’t know if this is because my classes here will actually end up counting for grades when I come back home (as opposed to other students, who may just be working in a pass/fail system), and thus I take them more seriously, but I do know that they are time consuming. I am an English major, which entails thousands of pages of reading, and long papers to write. The experience could be different for students of different majors, but this is what it’s like for me…and it’s pretty stressful.
I am not saying all of this to scare away people who want to study abroad. I am saying all of this because it is important for people to remember that studying abroad requires studying. It is as much a part of the experience as taking weekend trips to the English countryside or engaging with the locals in pubs.
Despite the amount of work, I’ve come to learn seriously taking part in these classes is a way of immersing yourself in your host country. You get to learn about what the people of your country think of current issues going on in the world. You get to see what the difference is between the way a specific concept at home is taught, and the way that concept is taught here.
I have, in fact, taken it upon myself to discover those differences by taking an American Literature class here. At home, I grew up learning American literature more than any other type of literature simply because the United States is the country I grew up in. I imagine that students here did the same, except with British literature. So, I decided that seeing their take on it would be an interesting way to spend my time here.
I have done things like this to remind myself that despite the amount of work I have to do, I am doing it to have a complete experience here. Touring the country is a part of it too, but the studying part of it is in some ways more important. It’s about imbedding yourself in the culture, and learning to have a daily routine in a place you may never develop a routine in again. I love it, and although I’ll be complaining about the 400 page book I have to read and 12 page paper I have to write later, I know that in the end it’ll all be worth it.