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5 things no one tells you about studying abroad

A woman studying abroad standing on a beach at sunset.

I moved to Mauritius at the age of 19 to study medicine. Even though it was just a 4-hour flight from my home Johannesburg, it felt like worlds apart. Here are the five main things I learned over the past five years…

1. You will get homesick

This may seem like an obvious one, but as a 19-year-old leaving home and the clutches of my parents sounded like heaven. I thought, ‘hell yeah FREEDOM!’. I partied with my new friends and had so much fun that I forgot about college. Then one day reality hit and s#*t got real. I realized that I was all alone in a foreign country, far away from home. I had never missed my family more. I would draw up calendars and count down the days till vacation to go home. I found that my home sickness faded in and out at different times, but it’s true what they say: absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

Woman sat in Mauritius

2. You still need to work hard!

Everyone would say to me: “you’re on a tropical island, it can’t be that hard!” Well, it was difficult. Going to college, coming home, cooking, cleaning and studying every day take work! My cooking skills were put to the test – ramen noodles, canned beans and cheese were my best friends. And for the times when I felt fancy, I called up the pizza place down the road – yep we were on a first name basis. Now, I consider myself a clean person, but cleaning became the ‘push it under the bed’ rule and laundry became the ‘wear that t-shirt till you can’t any more” rule.

3. You really grow as a person

Being independent feels absolutely great! Once you realize that you can’t run to mom and dad for everything, you start doing it on your own. I once called my mom crying because I was having problems with my landlord and my mom encouraged me to fight my own battles. I was so angry at first, but I ended up being so grateful because it felt so good to fix a problem on my own!
From shopping for groceries to renting a flat, it all forces out of your comfort zone. The most important thing I learnt was that when life gets tough, clean it up and don’t stop looking for the silver lining.

4. You’ll make beautiful memories and bonds

This is the best part. During my college years I LIVED! I said yes to almost anything. I went on spontaneous road trips, I crashed stranger’s parties, I had random pyjama dance parties at midnight with my closest friends and so much more! Just like every other college student, I made terrible some decisions, regretted them and then laughed at those decisions.
Along the way I met tons of people and I learnt that only the most important people will stick around. I left college with crazy memories and friends I will cherish forever and I am so glad that I wasn’t buried under my textbooks the ENTIRE time!
Woman in Mauritius

5. Positivity and kindness go a long way

This doesn’t just apply to people studying abroad! Life slaps everyone in the face sometimes and it’s so important to be kind because you never know who just needs a warm friendly smile. The world needs more kind people so try your best to be one, even when you feel like you can’t. I have gotten through some emotional days at college all because somebody decided to be kind.

The verdict:

Studying abroad is bittersweet, but it’s something I would do again and again. Not only did i grow up and change for the better, I also experienced a different culture and a different way of life. Thank you Mauritius for making my heart so full

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