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What to Expect from Study Abroad: Inside the Head of a Student

Studying abroad has been one of the most emotionally taxing experiences I’ve ever had. I came into this semester confident; I’m in my senior year, and this isn’t the first time I’ve been abroad. But spending a semester living in the home of an unfamiliar family, in a foreign culture, and being unsure of the language has definitely been a bit of a culture shock.

  At home, I effortlessly interact with others. If I bump into someone, I excuse myself without having to think about it. In a foreign country, everything is different. My communication skills are limited, and everything I do requires a lot more energy. In class, I always have to pay attention. If I zone out for a second at home, I can easily find my place again. When the courses are all taught in a language that is not my own, I have to stay focused or I risk becoming completely lost.

Some days I’ll get home and feel too exhausted from a long day of class to communicate with my host family. Often I know what I want to say, but I struggle to say it. I feel trapped inside my head sometimes.

If you were to peak inside the head of a student abroad, you would be amazed at how much thought is going on. I live my daily life being more aware of everything around me, because everything is just unfamiliar enough that I really need to pay attention. Living abroad has been taxing and exhausting, but also incredibly rewarding.

Although communication is more difficult, my classes are not. I can focus more on learning than on homework and assignments. I can feel myself making great leaps and bounds in my language skills. Additionally, every small opportunity is reason for celebration. I survived, I was understood, and I am proud of myself.

At home, it’s easy to become caught up in the flow of everyday life. I can go about my day feeling slightly annoyed and stressed out about everything I have to do. In France, I’m able to enjoy every interaction, and even the most menial tasks leave me feeling accomplished because I was able to do something in a language that is not my own. This experience has been a stressful one, but one that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Aimee Goffinet is the Fall 2013 CEA MOJO for Grenoble, France. She is currently a senior at the University of Kentucky.

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