4 Challenges Abroad and How to Conquer Them

Cusco, Peru

Cusco, Peru

Nothing is flawless (except maybe Beyoncé), and while study abroad may be the experience of a lifetime, it is not without its problems. Whether you’re suddenly struck by back home FOMO or the cultural norms leave you feeling like an alien, many international students face a number of different challenges unique to their life abroad.

However, a road bump here and there does not have to detract from your overall trip abroad. Deterrents are bound to happen, but taking them in stride will help you make the most of your time abroad.

  1. Homesickness

Ah yes, homesickness, the parasite of all study abroad experiences. It is perfectly healthy and normal to feel homesick at times, but letting it cripple you will take away from your overall experience. There are a number of ways to quiet down the loud voices in your head reminding you just how much you miss your dog, your mom’s pasta, or your dad’s corny jokes.

For some, practicing yoga, journaling or other self-awareness activities do the trick. For others, joining clubs and activities with new friends at your host school works best. Whatever the method, the main idea is not to sit in your room alone watching Netflix or spending hours on end perusing Instagram. You are in a foreign country. There is so much to do and see and discover. As our site director always says, “Always bring a positive attitude and get out there and explore. No excuses!”

  1. Feeling like an outsider

Is there something on my face? Seriously why is everyone staring at me? Whether it’s your fashion, your looks, or your inability to communicate in the local tongue, everything about your presence may make you feel different. Find peace in knowing it’s unlikely that the locals are deliberately trying to make you feel like an outsider. You may feel separate, awkward, and alienated at first, but with time this passes. To overcome feeling like an outsider, try to make at least one local friend at school. With cross cultural boundaries, this may seem like a monumental task, but your efforts will leave you with a new friend who can help you feel more at home in your new country.

  1. Staying motivated in school

You have had a taste of this great, big, beautiful world and are, in a word, addicted. How can your teachers possibly expect you to sit through two hour lectures, reviewing Spanish grammar, when you could just as well be out exploring, checking out new cafes, and actually using your language skills?

The key here is to remember- it’s called “study” abroad for a reason. Remember that your classes complement your exploring. While there is value in the act of living abroad itself, to truly maximize the learning potential of the experience, you need to stay committed to your studies. Some of the classes may be more challenging than you are used to back home, especially if you are taking classes with locals in another language. Balance work and play, but be proactive and focus on coursework if you find yourself struggling.

  1. Wanting to stay forever

You have fallen in love with your new home abroad. Everything about it – the sights, the sounds, the smells, and the energy has become a new (and improved) normal. You love the freedom, the adventure, the life you’ve created for yourself here. You are dreading the thought of returning home to family pressures, working, and responsibilities defined by others. Luckily conquering this challenge involves return trips! You might even consider moving abroad permanently or semi-permanently someday. The possibilities are endless.

Miraflores, Peru

Miraflores, Peru

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9 thoughts on “4 Challenges Abroad and How to Conquer Them

    • Hi Mike!
      San Isidro is really nice, it’s known for the financial district. The weather in January is the start of summer, so the climate will be really nice! I’m a bit envious, it’s still winter here currently haha. I hope you enjoy your time in Lima!

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  1. Sydnie…fellow Kentuckian here (school in Boone County & Covington, Grandparents live in Cold Spring by NKU). I like your blog…in the job I do I also travel to and around Lima 2-3 times a year and have lived some of the same things you’ve written about. I’ll actually land later today with a multi discipline team to stay for a week. Keep exploring and being a citizen of the world, the richness of the experience is much better than anything else!
    Bryan

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    • Hi Bryan!
      Thanks for reading. I’m also from NKY, I’m looking forward to heading back home in a few months, but I really do love it here in Peru!
      I hope you enjoy your week in Lima!

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  2. Sydnie, I have been reading your blog and eagerly look for your next post. It is so nice to read about the country where I was born from your perspective. I was so happy and surprised when I found out that you are from Ft. Thomas, KY. I live in Edgewood, came to the Northern KY as an exchange student in 1970, and fell in love with the people and Kentucky. Enjoy your stay in Peru, and keep writing of your experiences. Lily

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    • Oh my gosh! That’s so neat! Where in Peru are you from? I’m having such a good time here, Peru is amazing 🙂 and yes, be sure to keep reading, I have a trip to Huaraz planned this weekend and I’m hoping to go to Bolivia soon!

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      • I am from Lima, My family has since moved to Chorrillos near the malecon, and La Punta, Callao (nice places to visit if you have the time) I remember experiencing those same challenges when I first arrived in the States. How wonderful that you can travel so much is such a short time. Have an amazing time and safe travels! Keep writing, I look forward to your next post.

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  3. i like your writings a lot , as a peruvian expat living in Spain , it s amazing to read your experiences in my country, looking forward to reading your next post.

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