Study abroad. To some, this term elicits wondrous fantasies of far away lands where all of the people welcome you with open arms and mounds of food. To some, it is a vacation; a chance to party in new places, drink new beers, and meet new people. To others, and often those about to embark on this journey, it is a mix between being terrified that no one will like you (or you won't like them), frightened to move somewhere so far away for so long, and excited to see what is to come of this adventure. To all of those people about to study abroad, thinking about, or even just want to learn more about what it is like, I am here to tell you, study abroad is all of those things, and more. You will be terrified to come. Frightened that no one will like you, or afraid your host family will be awful. You will wonder why you decided to do this in the first place, and wonder if you can back out. But then, you will get there. You will realize, "Wow, I am literally halfway around the world right now from home."
View of Almaty
Every person's study abroad experience is different, but I have two pieces of advice for anyone studying abroad or going to a new place:
1. Be prepared to make a fool out of yourself. Every. Single. Day. You are in a new country, you will make a mistake of some sort. If you are going to a country where the language is different...just accept that many people will just assume you are stupid. Every culture is different and has its own quirks that you may not be aware of. Just come in with a good attitude, ready to laugh at yourself when you make a mistake.
2. Realize that the world does not revolve around you. In America, we are often raised with a self-centered world view. Everything, in some form or fashion, is, or can be, about us. When going to another country, though, nothing should be about you. People should not have to bend to meet your expectations, because that is why you are going abroad: to see other cultures. When you are uncomfortable on the hot bus ride to school, think to yourself, these people do this, and have done this, for years. You can survive one semester, or one year, living life like another culture.
In the week or so that I have been here, I have learned so many things, both culturally and linguistically. Here, horse meat is a thing. A common thing. Another student on the program meant to ask for a spoon to eat his breakfast, and instead, accidentally asked for horse (ложка versus лошадь (loshka/loshad)). I think I have personally said "to pee" instead of "to write" about 50 times (писать/писать, with the stresses differing). I also said I was a cold person to someone (я холодно/мне холодно). I could probably go on for about a day with all of the mistakes, language, and otherwise, but you get the idea. It is normal and OKAY to make mistakes!
Practicing Our "Russian Smiles"
With all of this said, know, too, that getting used to these things may be difficult. If you are having difficulties adapting, don't beat yourself up over it. Study abroad takes courage, and you are brave for making it this far.
Posted by Teddi Moorman / 10.23.2015