I studied abroad in 2016, it was the spring semester of my junior year in college, and I was posted up in Caen, Normandy, France.
I could blanket statement my whole experience by simply saying: I had the time of my life.
I made life long friendships, had unforgettable nights, traipsed around Europe chasing one adventure and sleepless night after the next… It was truly magical and amazing, I’m a huge advocate for study abroad programs due to my experience.
But now, 4 years later, I’ve reflected and there were definitely some things I wish I did a bit differently to further enhance my experience.
Maintained a relationship with my host family.
When I first arrived in France, I did a “Welcome Weekend” program where I stayed with an older French couple and they helped get me settled in the city. They also took me to a rather large dinner party their family hosted and honestly it was the most culturally overwhelming thing I’ve ever experienced. My French was mediocre at best and I spent the whole event near tears, guzzling wine the whole time. I would directly link this overwhelming experience as to why the minute the host family moved me into my dorm I practically blew them off. Even though they were nothing but overwhelmingly kind to me, it was exactly that – overwhelming. I was in culture shock, overwhelmed, and completely shut down. I proceeded to stick with mostly English speakers most of my time abroad when outside of the classroom.
In reality, I should have powered through this culture shock a bit better; perhaps reached out to my french professor in the US and talk through what I was going through with her, and embraced my host family (no matter how temporary they were hosting me) a bit more openly. I know that if I had, I would have great relations with them to this day, but now that is something that has blown like dust in the wind.
Saved more money prior to study abroad.
The best way to explain how I am with money is to say that I can make $5 last a lot longer than $100. So essentially all the money I brought with me was money I had earned only the summer before, which I worked three part time minimum wage jobs (I even gave a fourth job a go for about two weeks) and managed to put away around $1200. Which would be a fine amount if you cooked more than you ate out, didn’t travel as much, and rarely went shopping. But that’s literally the opposite of me. I went out like crazy, I traveled like crazy, and don’t even get me started on the shopping. Even piled with scholarships and the saved money that had me coming to Europe with close to $2,000… my family ended up needing to send me more money halfway through my time abroad because I ran bone dry.
So really if I had a do over, I would either be more frugal with my money while abroad or started saving maybe two or three summers prior to study abroad…
Traveled to more countries.
Ok, so I guess with this point I could really say being more frugal with my money is not in the cards for me – saving more and planning is though. When I was living in France, I traveled to Rome, Athens, Cologne, Berlin, Munich, Amsterdam, and Brussels. Believe it or not, I wish I saw more, went to more countries, and planned my trips more wisely. A part of me almost wishes instead of the Germany trip that I vacayed with other friends who tackled way more countries in a similar amount of time.
But at the same time, I also believe everything happens for a reason.
I don’t regret visiting those cities in Germany, and even though the people I traveled with caused me headaches like no other… that shorter trip also resulted in me going back to Caen with an extra week to hang out before classes started up again, and it led to cementing friendships with others who were in a similar boat as me – low on cash and spending a chunk of the holiday in Caen.
Even though I have these do overs, they aren’t really do overs.
Everything happens for a reason; even though it seems like ties are severed with my host family I know I could reach out to them even today and spark up a conversation – they really were that kind – and while money makes the world go round, what good is it if you just have it all locked away? Use your money to experience, to aid in creating memories, and to expand your horizons.
Am I saying to blow all of your money?
You know what, if your bills are paid, freaking blow it.
And if you need help on how to blow your money to create memories, hit ya girl up. I got you.