Perhaps the hardest part of studying abroad is that you have fewer “safety nets” – people you can talk to or things you can do to make yourself feel better if something goes wrong. Yes, my host family, the other students in my program, my program director, and the other exchange students are all incredible. I honestly lucked out and I think about that everyday. But there’s a sense of security that comes with being able to confide in people who have known you for a while, understand how you’ll feel in different situations, and have been there for you before. It reminds me of the way I felt towards the beginning of my freshman year at college; “everyone here is super nice, but I still just met them.”
Ironically, my college is now what I’m missing. I have so many friends there and the culture is so warm that it’s not unusual for me to meet an absolute stranger that I feel I could just tell everything to if I wanted. I also worry that I’m not there to be one more safety net for other people. We’re a community and it’s hard to be apart from.
I guess the two most important things to do are to make a better effort to keep in contact with the people back home (both my hometown and my college), and to remember that we supposedly grow the most when we’re out of our comfort zones.