Study abroad companions: things to know before you go

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Jessica Khauv/Staff

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Studying abroad is a wonderful experience that anyone and everyone should do in a heartbeat. Traveling across the world to a country that speaks a different language and carries a different lifestyle than what you’re used to is an experience that can be somewhat scary, but not nearly as much as it is rewarding and memorable.

While seeing new places, eating new food and immersing yourself in another culture is very exciting, one of the most important components of your study abroad experience is the people that you do it with. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a study abroad group with many different types of personalities, each with something unique to offer. It won’t always be glamorous, but the people you study abroad with have more value than you might realize when you first meet them.

While group sizes may vary, your entire group is likely to do everything together for the first couple weeks or so, which is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because you’re in a foreign country and likely don’t know what anything is, anyone living there, or the language — so it’s nice to have company in your confusion. It’s also a curse because, well, it’s nearly impossible to get 25 people on the same page about doing something or going somewhere.

As the program goes on, you’ll quickly find out who “your people” are, and everyone will develop their own subgroups, and it’s much easier to go out and explore what your city has to offer when there are only four other people with you. Even once you do find your own crew, compromise is necessary in any sort of travel. There’ll be days when your buddies agree to go to that obscure Japanese modern art museum that you wanted to check out, and there’ll be nights where you agree to a very late night of partying despite being totally exhausted — both of which have been super memorable for me.

Living in close quarters with multiple people who are most likely complete strangers — such as when I shared an apartment with five others while studying in Rome this spring — can be quite the experience, especially when you don’t have much familiarity with roommates to begin with. You’ll bond quickly with your suitemates, and they’ll probably know more about you in three months than most people do in three years. There’ll be plenty of good times, some of which might include communal dinners, having deep talks or jamming out to some music. Other times you’ll be arguing over the two Euros that you owed somebody from a meal-check split, yelling at your roommate for not drying all the way off after a shower and leaving water everywhere, or will find yourself getting pulled into unnecessary group drama when all you want to do is take a nap. But all that aside, these are people that you’ll remember for a very long time, and by the time the trip is over, you’ll be sad to leave them.

Contact Doug Smith at [email protected].

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