When I began this adventure, I went into my experience expecting to have “the study abroad experience.” I didn’t know what that was exactly, but I imagined it as this great experience shared by all international students. What I didn’t realize was there are many subcategories to “the study abroad experience” because there are many types of international students! Here is a list of nine subcategories I came up with for the different types of international students I have encountered and the different approaches they’ve taken to studying abroad.
Which one do you fit in to?
1. The Foodie
Possibly one of the best parts of traveling is eating. There is food everywhere and it’s so new and delicious. Your stomach may not think it’s hungry, but when you pass by a bakery, you will suddenly find yourself starving. This is the category of people who make food lists when they go somewhere new and spend a ridiculous amount of time getting that perfect “food in the air” shot for Facebook or Instagram. I myself shamelessly fall into this category. I firmly believe in never saying “no” to new food.
2. The Beverage Connoisseur
While this category is not mutually exclusive from “the eater” category, it definitely describes a different approach. This group is always looking for where they can find craft beers and wines. They read up on local bars and insist on at least passing by the local brewery. When you ask how their drink is, instead of saying “good” or “not great,” they use funny words like “bright and clean” or “yeasty,” and you’ll wonder if they’re still talking about the beer or if they’ve started describing their new apartment and their mother’s freshly baked bread.
3. The Night-Goer
Scientists will try to tell you that the sleeping patterns of humans are naturally dependent on the sun. We sleep when the sun is down, and are awake when the sun is up. The night-goer category of international students are proof to the contrary. They have no problem living it up when the sun is down. They know all the good spots; which ones play good music, which ones only play five songs on a loop, which ones have reasonable prices and which ones are too crowded. They know when all the events are. They’re basically like a night life travel guide. And somehow they still make it to class in the morning looking better than you do when you go to bed at 9 p.m. If you’re like me, this group of people will forever amaze and mystify you.
4. The Adventurer
This is the group of people who read the articles about sleeping patterns aligning with the sun, and therefore, prefer to be active when it is light outside. They might not know as much about evening events, but they know which cafes have the biggest cappuccinos and where to go for a good hike. They like to get up early, so they can fit as much into the day as possible. Being someone who falls into this category, I know from experience having the whole day ahead of you can open up some amazing opportunities you never even considered.
5. The Everything Experiencer
I always thought studying abroad was the traveling — as in, once I got to my university, I’d stay there. I was wrong. Compared to traveling in the United States, traveling in Europe is so reasonable and convenient. Earlier this month, I traveled through five countries in six days. Upon realizing the opportunity I have here to travel, I jumped on it. Now I’m traveling everywhere I can whenever I can. The magic you feel when you study abroad breeds a desire to see as many more new and exciting places as you can.
6. The In-Depth Experiencer
While travel is amazing, it definitely has its drawbacks. For example, every time I return to my host institution in Germany from a trip, my friends say, “I haven’t seen you in forever!” It’s hard to say goodbye to friends here even just for a week, especially because I know that in just a few months I will have to say goodbye indefinitely. It’s also hard to make sure I’m balancing my time traveling with spending time trying to assimilate to German culture, which is what I came here to do in the first place. For some people, these drawbacks are too big and they decide to stay closer to their host institution while abroad. It’s more important to these people to have a prolonged, in depth experience of a couple places than a surface understanding of many places.
7. The Extrovert
Simply being an international student means you’re already part of a very large and friendly group of other international students. For some students, this is very important. They want to be surrounded by other people as often as they can. They stay on campus, go to organized events and organize events themselves. It’s uncommon for those in this category to eat meals or go grocery shopping alone. These people are generally very extroverted and friendly, and by the end of the semester have met all kinds of new and different people.
8. The Individual
While it’s very important and exciting to meet and learn from new people, some of us simply aren’t that extroverted. It’s okay to be shy, even when studying abroad. It’s important to make connections with other people, but that doesn’t have to mean going out with a huge group every night. Allow yourself to stay in every now and then, or go out and get a drink by yourself sometimes. Find just a couple of people to hang out with instead of trying to hang out with huge groups all the time. It’s important to find a balance that suits your personality. Even though you likely won’t have met hundreds of new people by the end of your experience, you will have had the best experience for you and will have probably had the opportunity to foster a couple of deep, meaningful relationships that will extend past the end of your study abroad.
9. The Well-Rounded Person
No matter what type of study abroad experience you have, you will be a more well-rounded person because of it. It would take a lot of effort to study abroad and go home without learning anything. It’s important to tailor your experience to fit your needs and dreams, and make the most of that experience and go home with a better understanding of yourself and the world around you.
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