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Holding on Through the Study Abroad Emotional Rollercoaster

July 6, 2016

University of North Carolina, Wilmington student Aaron K, a history major, studied abroad in the U.K. at the Plymouth University. Here are his impressions of what it feels like to study abroad.

It seems as though every time you ask someone who is studying abroad how they are doing, you get the almost automatic response: “Yeah, it’s great!” We feel nearly obligated to say something positive because of the perceived “greatness” study abroad brings along with it, and after living one full month in England, I can say that this is the truth: I’ve had the opportunity to see half of what I’ve read about in my history books, had the craziest experiences and eaten tons of delicious British chocolate.

However, study abroad is also like an emotional roller coaster on steroids. Actually, it’s more like being strapped to a figurative space shuttle and being blasted into emotional outer space. By the end of every week, I’ve gone from the highest of happy (when I see some crusty old ruin from the 1400’s that excites my inner-nerd), to the biggest of frustrations (when I miss a train that apparently doesn’t have time to wait for confused Americans), to fear (that I won’t make friends or I’ll blow up the kitchen with my cooking), to shock (at the newness of a foreign way-of-life and having to be so independent), to homesickness, to stress management and repeat.

I guess that’s why employers value prospective applicants who have studied abroad, because study abroad is like a reflection of everything in life. Next time someone asks me how I’m doing, I’m going to give a much more real answer to show what it really means to study abroad.


If you want to learn more about what the day to day of studying at the Plymouth University looks like, check out Aaron’s blog. There he discusses his classes, volunteering at a museum, and his travels. For more information about studying abroad in the United Kingdom, visit the ISEP website.

An earlier version of this post was originally shared December 4, 2013.

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