It takes a leap of faith to move to another country. The new country, though full of exquisite newness and exotic experiences, will always find you a stranger in its midst. You bring your own particular expectations and neuroses, and these can jar with the new world around you no matter how flexible you try to be. If you're young and inexperienced, this can be magnified. So why do students keep taking this brave leap? Because when, in the end, they land on their feet and return home, they have invariably flourished in a way they had never thought possible.
Some people seek out good friends others have good friends thrust upon them. When you choose to study abroad, you will be at a stage in your life when most people around you have already solidified their close circle of friends, from school or from their youth. It can be hard, in your spare time, to find people truly open to making a new and deep connection. But the expatriate life puts you in a pool of strangers looking for support and locals looking to help out, and this relational cocktail is often an ideal brew to forge new, adult and lifelong friendships.
Reverse culture shock
Even the hardened traveller will get homesick when they study abroad. The yearning for familiarity and affection is absolutely normal. But the added difficulty is that your new home, no matter how beneficial or exciting, is full of customs that run counter to your intrinsic habits. In time, however, you will not only adapt in ways you never thought possible, you may also return home to find it now seems strange. While daunting, reverse culture shock gives you the chance to reassess your home, priorities and relationships and so redirect your life.
New options and ambitions
The experience of a trip to study abroad can fly past. The exams, new people, new accommodation and cultural adjustments can drain you and make time speed by. You may not feel that you have the time or energy to fully process everything. But whether you stay in Madrid, Los Angeles or Moscow, you will return home with new options. This is because life in a foreign country will expose to you what you really are like, in terms of your tastes, instincts, needs and limits. This personal shake-up can reap dividends by peeling back the veil of complacency that your home routine can cast over you.
A different you
Ultimately, no matter the highs and lows, a chance to study abroad is a chance to reinvent yourself. You will be in a new place where no one knows you, so you can try new things. But even more significant is the end result of this experiment. The things that you learn from your successes and failures give you a chance to forge a better you.