Everyone is afraid of something.
For me it’s spiders. The spiders I have been finding in my room have been progressively getting bigger which is what led to a disastrous battle against one on my ceiling which led to glass ending up all over my floor, my bed, and my computer.
But greater than that is my fear of not being good enough. I stress over it. I analyze it. I give it far more attention than it deserves. And it’s something I’ve truly tried to leave at home.
I know I am not alone in this. As college students we’re told that perfection comes in the form of GPA, career choices, internships, social connections, etc. It’s surprising that we don’t spend more of our time in a puddle on the floor. After years of intense classes, labs, and stress the last thing I wanted to do was to pack this feeling in my suitcase.
I won’t lie and say I’ve been 100% successful, but I do feel like I’ve made significant progress in being okay with where I am, what I am, and how I am. I feel confident in saying that at this current moment I am the least stressed I’ve been in probably four years. I still examine my flaws way more than I should, but then I start hearing the call of Sweden and that’s far more interesting than self pity.
I mean how can you look at this:
and only think of yourself. When there’s a world as amazing as this right outside your door it can speak far louder than the little annoying voice in the back of your head. It may be harder to do that back at home, but when studying abroad it’s important to let your host country take over for a bit and just enjoy it.
I will admit that it sounds easier than it is. However, a few things have made all the difference for me such as my wonderful host family. My best tool for fighting loneliness and self doubt when I first got here was talking to my host family. Everyday before and after dinner I’d hang around the kitchen and just chat with them. We’ve talked about our days, politics, science, history, children, and all kinds of things. Not only has it helped me bond with them and learn more about them, but it just made my day better. Talking to them was far more interesting than letting stress absorb me.
I also stopped caring what people think. Not completely, but I’m working on that. I’m in Sweden for less than a semester, and if these people end up thinking I’m some crazy freak loser person then that’s fine. I don’t have to see them again once I leave here. For me that logic has been freeing because instead of analyzing I’ve been texting people to hang out, asking weird questions, and for the most part doing what I want. There’s too much going on to really spend a lot of time on other people’s opinions of you.
I’ve also started working on making loving myself an active thing rather than a passive one. Being away from friends and family has forced me to spend more time with myself, and to simply put it who wants to spend a lot of time with someone they don’t like? I can honestly say that me, myself, and I are on pretty good terms right now as a result. The biggest thing that has helped with this is letting myself be happy. Instead of focusing on what I don’t like about myself I’ve been trying to focus on the interesting people around me, the interesting things I’ve seen, the weird but awesome things that make me who I am, and oh yeah the fact that I’m abroad for a year and am pushing myself so far out of my comfort zone that I can’t even see it anymore.
So if you’re planning on studying abroad my best advice to you is when packing try your best to leave your problems, stress, and icky feelings at home because in a whole new country you won’t need it.