Studying Abroad with Purpose

We are a little over one month into studying abroad in Lithuania. I have already grown so much since I have been at LCC. I, along with other students, have realized how easy it is to get distracted from your goals you had planned for your time studying abroad. It is so important to come with goals you want to accomplish while abroad. One question you will be asked once you get here is what your purpose for the semester is. It is important to make sure to use your time wisely while here in Europe. The best way to make sure you accomplish your goals and purpose is by making a list before or when you first arrive.

Many people decide to study abroad for different reasons so it will look different for everyone. I personally had a goal to visit as many countries possible while here. I also wanted to get involved with a ministry and do benevolence work in the Klaipeda community. Other people’s purpose was to accomplish their practicum in teaching or youth pastoral, and others wanted to just experience a different learning culture. You can have multiple goals you would like to complete, just make sure they are realistic goals that you can accomplish. Also, be sure to talk with the study abroad staff about what you want to get involved in and they can help open many doors for you in the community.

Since everyone’s purpose for studying abroad is a bit different the distractions that hinder you from achieving those goals will look different for everyone. The biggest distraction I have personally dealt with is not finding my group of friends. The study abroads and university students make a big group. There are so many people to hang out with while you are living on campus. It’s impossible to feel close to all of them and easy to feel left out if you don’t intentionally put yourself out there. It is easy to allow yourself to never go out of your room or to only go to town by yourself. This can cause you to feel left out. It’s very important to remember your goals for the semester, or it is possible that you will get distracted and cause youself to miss the best semester of your life by feeling down. For me, it hasn’t been a priority to make super close friends, but I realized that without having people around there is something missing. If I could go back to the beginning of the semester I would have made sure that I did make that a priority.

On the other end, I have seen a lot of other study abroad students get too overwhelmed with doing too many things with their friends. They feel they don’t have time to even do their school work. If you don’t have time to do your school work, you for sure will not have time to accomplish your goals for the semester. An important thing to do is to find an even ground between having your own personal time, without being too isolated, and being too popular with no time to do the basic things that need to be done. Even if you do end up feeling left out due to your own choices, or if you are too involved with other people it is important to go back and remind yourself the reason you decided to study abroad.

Another thing to be careful of is the super cheap flights. Even if your goals are similar to mine, there is such thing as traveling too much. You are doing a STUDY abroad. It is important that you invest in your classes and take time to understand what it is like to study in a different country. It is so easy to be gone every weekend and explore new cities, but you will tire yourself out where you won’t be able to physically do your goals for the semester. Make sure to leave some weekends free to catch up on readings or to do big assignments.

The last thing that I have noticed that is a distraction to accomplishing your purpose while studying abroad is the culture shock. Culture shock is something that everyone goes through especially by the end of the first month in the new culture. I personally have allowed certain things in the culture, such as grocery shopping or the style of food, to affect me. When culture shock happens and I feel aggravated with little things I had to remind myself that studying abroad in Europe had been something that I wanted to do for a long time. I had to remind myself that this is a feeling that happens when you experience something that is very different than where you are from and that I will eventually get used to it. I have heard stories from the past of people allowing the culture of the country they are in to affect their lives while there. They focus so much on wanting to go back to what they are used to instead of trying to learn more about the culture. If you allow yourself to try to understand why things are done the way they are you can find the beauty in the moments and will soon be over culture shock.

I really hope that when and if you come to this point in the semester you are reminded of why you came to LCC. I hope that you can look at how far you have already come and how much more time you have to grow and accomplish the purposes of why you choose to study abroad. Take time to go to the ocean, a park, or a coffee shop and reflect on the time you have been here and see how you have worked towards your goals for studying abroad. If you are straying away from your original plan, try to maneuver back and set your priorities to where you truly want them. Remember that while you are overseas, life is still life and it still has its ups and downs. Don’t allow life’s little bumps to affect your time while studying abroad. Instead, use them as fuel to ignite yourself to help you complete your purpose of studying abroad and become who you want to be when you leave to go back home.

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