Everybody told me that there would be some homesickness when I first arrived to study abroad, but I didn’t fully understand how it would feel until I arrived. Having already gone 15 hours from home for school I thought I would be completely fine, but being alone in a new area on top of being in a new country definitely was harder for me than I imagined it would be.
For my program, I did not know anyone else going, where I was staying, or who my roommates would be. When I arrived, I was shocked to find out that I had four French roommates, one roommate from the Netherlands, one from Germany, and just one other American student. Living in a communal space with people from all over took a while for me to get adjusted to. In Alabama, I live with one girl in an apartment with our own bathrooms. Now, I was living with 8 people, 4 languages, and only 2 bathrooms. This was quite the change. However, I have learned so much about different cultures and ways of living just through my accommodation. Living with international students has been an experience that I did not intend on having, but I am greatly appreciative to have had the opportunity to do so. I suggest getting out of your comfort zone while studying abroad and meeting international students from all over, not just from America.
Another area of culture shock that hit me hard was food shopping. At The University of Alabama, I am a frequent shopper of Target and Publix where I have been shopping my entire life. I also routinely go to Chipotle and Starbucks (probably more than I would care to admit). When I got abroad I knew I would not have my usual restaurants, but grocery shopping in new stores was more difficult than I imagined. In Europe, the stores carry different brands and have smaller selections than the super grocery stores in America. I also had very limited space for food in my accommodation. This made it difficult for me to grocery shop at first, but I eventually found a way to make it work for me. I highly recommend finding a cheap grocery store close to your accommodation abroad to save money because eating out constantly will get expensive quick. I also encourage trying new brands and types of foods when you are abroad. I was able to learn so much about new cultures and ways of life just by trying new stores and meals in the countries I visited.