Going to another country and spending a year there is often praised as one of the best and fastest ways of becoming fluent in a foreign language, of getting to know a new culture, of expanding your horizons.
However, reality is often far less rose-colored, and you may easily discover after spending a year abroad that your language of choice improved much less than you’ve expected, that you are feeling depressed, that you seem to have lost a year of your life for nothing. Let’s take a look at unpleasant implications of spending a year abroad – perhaps it will help you prepare.
1. English Is Everywhere
Let’s face it – English is a primary language of international communication, and every educated person in any part of the world knows enough of it to at least get by. Thus, if it is your primary language, you will have a hard time submerging into another linguistic environment. Chances are, most other international students will know English as well, English will be the language of choice of other foreigners (because it is most likely to be understood in multi-lingual surroundings) and, as a result, you may find yourself speaking English more than the language you’ve come to study.
2. Technology Makes Adapting Harder
Technology doesn’t make matters easier as well. Diving into a different culture and linguistic reality certainly was much easier back when there were no Internet. You may stay in a foreign country, but English-speaking websites are a click away, English-speaking friends can be contacted in a matter of seconds, English-speaking television is easily available, English-speaking movies can be watched on Netflix. In other words, staying abroad doesn’t automatically immerse you into completely different language environment – you will have to work for it.
A year away from home is a very long time – so make sure you are ready for it. If you have never been far away from your loved ones, such a long period of separation can be the reason for very serious depression.
4. Reverse Culture Shock
The opposite is true as well – after spending a year adapting to a foreign culture, education system, meeting new people, doing exciting new things coming back to your old life may become a bit anti-climactic. Your new friends are far away and you don’t know whether you’ll meet them again, you have to get back into routine, you suddenly have a great deal of work to do – and all this looks decidedly unexciting.
Meeting new interesting people is good – but it means that you can get distant from those back home, which is especially true if you are currently in a romantic relationship, for a year abroad brings many of them to an end. On the other hand, if you manage to sustain it, it will emerge stronger than ever.
Studying abroad is an excellent, once in a lifetime opportunity to learn another language and live in another cultural environment when you are still young and have relatively few responsibilities. Yet just like all other good things, you have to pay for it; but if you are ready for this challenge, then good luck and go on!