Studying abroad has been an amazing experience so far; there is no doubt in my mind that I made the right choice to come to France. While in Europe, I have gotten the opportunity to bike ride in Spain, take a thermal bath in Budapest, and walk up the 700-step stairs of the Eiffel Tower.
However, studying abroad is not just traveling all the time, no matter how much it may seem that way from social media.
“FOMO (fear of missing out) is rampant when your entire Instagram feed is filled with your exchange cohorts exploring other countries, while you are at your apartment doing next week’s readings.”
The truth about studying abroad is that it’s comprised of a lot of daily life activities. It is going to class, taking exams, cooking dinner and hanging out with friends. It is creating a new routine in a new place, which for me has been the hardest part.
I first noticed that I was feeling off on the seventh day of a nine-day travel extravaganza. It wasn’t something I could pin on any one thing. I had been having wonderful experiences with new friends. And to admit that I was feeling a bit down was embarrassing, as wasn’t I supposed to be loving every second of my trip? But it was there, as a little bit of uneasiness that continued to grow in the following weeks.
After a three-day weekend spent in my host city alone, about a month later, I realized I don’t have a routine here.
Back in San Diego, I was a creature of habit. I had my favorite coffee shops I would visit on certain days of the week and the ARC yoga class every Monday night. I volunteered with my favorite non-profit every Saturday and meal prepped for the week every Sunday. My life was predictable, organized, and stable.
While thinking of what exactly I do here every day, I can’t pinpoint anything that is a constant. I live in a perpetual state of checking and re-checking my calendar. Classes are canceled and rescheduled almost every week (especially now thanks to la grève, or the strike, of the French trains my professors use to commute). Almost every weekend brings a new trip or adventure. So, in wanting to create a “daily life abroad” video to submit for the blog, I discovered the task is (almost) impossible. It was this connection, the lack of anchors here and my uneasiness, that has led me to a reflection on what daily life, or la vie quotidienne, is abroad.
Here’s a short video of my highlights so far.
So, as you can see there is not a good answer to “what do you do every day while abroad?” because every day is something new.
But as I stated in the beginning, there is studying happening while studying abroad. Being a student means taking time for yourself. So, a piece of advice for people planning on studying abroad is this: Pick one thing you can do every day, no matter where you are. It could be anything from stretching every morning, or writing 20 minutes a day, or meditation. Choosing something to ground myself has come a little late, but I know it would have helped a lot more had I started on arrival.
Also, remember that a semester abroad, and especially a year abroad, does not have to include a lifetime of travels. Constant travel seems exhilarating, but I made the mistake of wearing my body and mind down. Luckily, I have had a lot of free time in the past weeks to catch up and rethink what I want the rest of my time here to look like.
It is so tempting to spend hours on travel sites looking up flights, or on Culture Trip reading articles like “Top 10 European Must Sees.” FOMO (fear of missing out) is rampant when your entire Instagram feed is filled with your exchange cohorts exploring other countries, while you are at your apartment doing next week’s readings. However, each exchange student chooses his or her host city/country for a reason. Personally, I have to remind myself that I need time to relax and soak in my French city’s daily life.
My advice? Find a local park, sit and watch the people go by. Wander your city, take the buses. Do not stop until every street has known your presence. Be comfortable with doing “nothing” because even in nothing, something new can always be found.
La vie quotidienne abroad will be different for every student, but if you pick something and stick to it while treating each day as equally valuable to the next (no matter your GPS location) studying abroad can be such an exhilarating and rewarding experience.
Sarah Karver is a comparative international studies sophomore with a minor in French. She is studying spring semester in Reims, France.
Loved this Sarah. Grandma and Grandpa
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Hello Sarah! Thank you for sharing this. I remember learning this when I studied abroad in Spain – I only picked two other places in Europe to travel to during my semester due to my budget and I wanted to KNOW where I lived. Looking back, it was actually the daily routine and moments that I love and miss the most when I remember my semester abroad – walking to and from school and taking a different path each way; my cafe con leche before class at the school cafeteria, and sitting in my favorite plaza with friends or by myself just peoplewatching. All of this was in my host city, Granada.
I love how honest your posts are! Keep it up.
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I’m so happy that you got to study in france.I’m applying for an exchange to france this year,and more than scared I’m excited.Lots of love,keep blogging<3
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