#PaxAbroad: Confessions of Study Abroad Anxiety

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Taking in the view of the breathtaking Verona, Italy

My dear family, friends, and followers,

Spring has sprung in London! I cannot wait for all the magnificent gardens in the city’s parks to starting blossoming. Hopefully this will mean some warmer weather so I can finally break out the sundresses, but a girl can only dream…

The only negative about spring finally being here? I only have five. more. weeks. abroad. My friends and I vehemently deny this any chance we get since we’ve decided there is absolutely no way we can leave our new home.

Before I went abroad, three and a half months in Europe felt like a lifetime. Now, it seems like an infinitesimal amount of time to see and do everything I want to do. Think about it: students typically have four years to explore their universities, but only four months to explore an entire country?! Not possible.

This ticking time bomb gives me what I can only describe as study abroad anxiety.

Study Abroad Anxiety
Definition of Study Abroad Anxiety

Study abroad anxiety, as defined by yours truly, is the worry that you will not make the most of your time abroad, therefore not maximizing your study abroad adventure. It’s the feeling you can’t shake of missing out on an experience while you’re in the middle of another one. It’s the fear if you eat out too much or buy too many clothes that you are wasting the valuable money you have on items making you fat and leaving you broke. It’s the stress planning trips to other countries even though you feel like you haven’t seen even a fraction of the city you live in but WHAT IF YOU DON’T GO TO ENOUGH PLACES IN EUROPE IS YOUR STUDY ABROAD TRIP AUTOMATICALLY WORTHLESS????

Needless to say, it’s hard to pack every experience you can possibly have into three and a half months.

Study abroad anxiety has been gnawing at me ever since I realized my Easter weekend trip to Scotland wasn’t really an option because, believe it or not, lots of other people are booking hostels that weekend without regard to a certain student who really, really wants to see the Scottish Highlands.

I thought this anxiety was developing just because I’m anxious in general, but this weekend I talked to some friends about my study abroad anxiety and realized they had it too. Everyone is worried about not making the most of their time because they compare their experiences to others, fearing that their trip won’t live up to the expectations of those before them.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past two months, it’s that studying abroad is a unique experience for every person, and they must prioritize doing what’s important to them. When you stop comparing yourself to others, study abroad anxiety melts away, leaving a sense of courage to do what you really want and find out who you really are.

Yes, I only have one more trip planned to another country. But I’ve been on two day trips to cities in the UK with plans to go on at least two more, learning about the country I chose to live in and what lies beyond London’s borders. I went on an amazing tour of five cities in Italia, the motherland, a place where I immediately felt at home.   I’ve had the incredible opportunity to explore London’s expansive boroughs, learning just how different a city can feel just by traversing the Tube stops. And I couldn’t be more happy because I’ve done what I wanted to do while abroad.

My advice to any study abroad student, past, present, and future: we only have a limited time where we are right now, so prioritize what you want to do, carpe diem, and leave that study abroad anxiety behind.

With love from London,

Paxton

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