Studying abroad: It is not all rainbows and butterflies

Although studying abroad is one of the best choices you can make in your life, it is not always butterflies and rainbows. You will miss family, friends, home, and everything familiar to you. I especially miss my family right now because I have hit the half way point of my year in Buenos Aires. My sister just came to visit me, and the painful goodbye reminded me of when I first left on July 24, 2014.

When I was busy during the semester with classes and friends, I did not miss my family as much because my mind was constantly on my studies and all of the cool things I am experiencing. Now that it is summer here, all of my Argentinian friends are on vacation and all my Americans friends from my study abroad program are in the U.S. waiting for the next semester to start at the end of February. I am pretty lonely and have shed some tears.

I cannot help but feel alone in a city of three million people, although I am still living with my supportive and caring host family. It is so tempting for me to stay in my room, avoiding the real world by watching Netflix, sleeping or going on Facebook, but I know that will only make me lonelier since I am such a people-person.

It is very difficult knowing that I am 6,000 miles away from my family and friends, so I try my best to keep that out of my mind. Skyping and texting my family really helps me feel closer to home. Although I have six more months here, I avoid thinking of how many days that is and, instead, take one day at a time.

Feeling lonely is one of the worst feelings in the world, but, for me, it has helped me grow both mentally and emotionally, and helped me become more independent. I am used to going to places with someone, whether it be my twin sister Catherine, or my friends from my study abroad program, so this alone time has shown me that it is okay to do things by myself, and that, no, not everyone is staring at me because I am do things alone.

I try to get out of my house as much as I can so that I do not spend all day listening to sappy songs and crying. I go to Starbucks and people watch, or sit out in a public park with a book and mate (traditional Argentine tea) while soaking up some sun, I chat with my wonderful host parents or wander the chaotic streets of this city, fascinated by the European architecture.

Although I would do anything to be back home in Minnesota with my family and friends right now, I know that six months will fly by, so I need to try my best to stay in the moment and relish every second of this beautiful country. Before I know it, I will be home, longing to return to Argentina.

So, if you are ever studying abroad and feel alone, know that you are not alone. Talking helps the most, whether it is to an empathetic taxi driver, your host family, your real family through skype or with friends you made in the country you are in. Do not keep your emotions to yourself; everyone feels alone at some point, and most people are willing to help you and cheer you up. These feelings will not last forever, so address them and focus on your great, upcoming adventures that lie before you.

About Elizabeth Rodewald

Elizabeth is a senior International Relations and Spanish double major from Mendota Heights, MN. She recently returned home from a year-long study abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After graduation she plans on either going to graduate school in Washington, DC to later pursue a career in counterterrorism or taking a year off to teach English in a foreign country. In her spare time she enjoys reading in cafes, going to the gym, speaking Spanish, discussing politics and spending time with her family and her Bichon Frise, Henry. Elizabeth can be reached at earodewald@stkate.edu.

3 thoughts on “Studying abroad: It is not all rainbows and butterflies

  1. Hi Elizabeth,
    I was just catching up on your blog and see that you’ve hit the infamous “low” on the cultural adjustment curve. Not to worry, as you already mentioned, this is both normal and expected. And you are doing all of the right things, talking to those around you, pushing yourself to get out of your room and engage with the outside world, reminding yourself that this is an opportunity of a lifetime…
    The one thing I would add is to be gentle with yourself! This decision and commitment you have made to your academic and personal development is a courageous one and when those moments of discomfort come along, don’t feel like you need to force them away. All of these moments have value, even the messier ones. The ability to feel content when alone is lifelong work, certainly not something you can expect to master in one year abroad, but it sounds like you are putting in some good effort and that will serve you well in ways that you can’t yet imagine.
    So I’m sending both a hug and a “high 5,” you are doing great!! And thank you for sharing your stories!
    Take care,
    Raine

  2. What a wonderful experience for you Elizabeth, and I applaud you for being such a young, strong, independent and focused woman. You are gaining very valuable experience, and only good things will come from it. You should be very proud of yourself. And what wonderful memories you will carry with you for the rest of your life!