When contemplating my decision to study abroad, it was honestly way easier to find a million reasons not to. Picking up your life and moving to a new continent is daunting and takes a lot of work. The process requires a lot of research, paperwork, and emotional preparation. Beforehand, I found myself making excuses as to why I couldn't do it, however, once I got started with the process, there was no turning back for me. I want to highlight the top three obstacles I faced throughout the process to show anyone who may be facing the same ones that they shouldn’t stop you from a life-changing semester abroad!
Let's start with the obvious one, COVID. Travel was (and still is) complicated. While international travel is already a lot to handle, the pandemic added about 20 more steps to the whole process. Ensuring I had the correct forms filled out and would even be able to travel to my destination at the time of my flight (as travel requirements are ever-changing right now) was the most stressful part, but while it was a lot to handle, I did it! All it took was some thorough research and reading up on the experiences of other frequent travelers to understand what I needed to do. Once I arrived to study abroad in France, the research process was pretty standard, and before traveling to a new destination, I would ensure I would be okay to visit that place. Things are constantly changing throughout this pandemic, and you must keep up with the changes. If you do, it's still possible for you to have an incredible experience amidst this crazy time.
Second, homesickness. Back at home in the U.S., I go to school about two and a half hours away from home, so it was difficult to wrap my brain around living halfway across the world for almost four months. Although I am very independent and knew that I would be okay on my own, there is no way to prepare yourself for a change as drastic as that one. The unknown scared me, and I will say, this obstacle was probably the biggest one for me personally. I consulted with others who had previously studied abroad (one being my sister, who wasn't going to let me shy away from it), hearing how worth the experience is, the homesickness seemed manageable. And while I had a hard time leaving home, once I arrived in France, I was fully immersed in the study abroad experience. Sure, I missed my family and friends, but never once did I feel like I would be better off at home. Anytime I had those feelings of homesickness, all I wanted to do was snap my fingers and have my loved ones in France WITH me. I fell in love with my little home in Antibes and truly soaked up every minute because I knew how quickly it would all fly by. Odds are, you will NEVER have an opportunity to do something like studying abroad at any other point in your life. If you do, you are lucky. My advice? Don't let the fear of being pushed out of your comfort zone keep you from potentially the most life-changing growth you could ever experience.
The third factor that I know is a concern for most people is the cost. I completely understand this concern. For me, it also seemed more logical to assume that studying abroad would be at an extremely high cost compared to my home university. I mean, a whole semester in France, including school, housing, and some excursions? Surely that would be way out of reach. All it took was a little bit of research and effort to learn that this wasn’t true, and it was the same if not slightly cheaper of a cost as my tuition in Oklahoma to study abroad. Everyone’s financial situation looks different, so I’m not here to say it will work out for anyone and everyone. My point, however, is that you shouldn’t brush studying abroad off as financially out of reach before doing your research. You may be surprised at how accommodating programs like CEA are to your financial situation, and how many scholarships there are out there for study abroad students! Higher education institutions and programs like CEA understand the value of an international experience, and they will do what they can to make sure you can go.
So yes, the road to study abroad is not easy, but the experiences that come from going abroad make every single step along the way so worth it. It’s not for everyone, but I can say I think I would be a completely different person if it weren’t for the last four months and I’m so glad I pursued this opportunity. Along with all the resources you can find online to make your study abroad experience possible, don’t ever be afraid to reach out to CEA alumni or any friends and family you know who went abroad. One thing that study abroad students LOVE to do is talk about their time abroad. Ask questions, do your research, and don’t let anything stop you from what may be the most fun and fulfilling season of your life!
Cameron ten Napel is the Fall 2021 CEA MOJO Blogger in French Riviera, France, and is currently studying at University of Oklahoma.