After you surpass the ages of middle school or even high school, you always hear your peers saying, “Man, remember the times when we had designated naps in class, and the only thing we got in trouble for was not coloring in the lines? Those were the good ol’ days.” Indeed they were — oh how we wish we could throw it back to the days where bills, exams, and paying rent was not yet a thing, and how we could run around outside without a care in the world.
Unfortunately, time travel isn’t a thing (yet), but... going abroad is. Going abroad is an experience that most people walk away from feeling grown up and independent. But have you ever thought about how felt when you first arrived in that new country? Taking your first steps off of that international flight was like taking your first baby steps into a whole new world (cue the Aladdin soundtrack). Before you did all of this maturing abroad, you were likely stripped of your adulthood and left to feel like a helpless child.
Take a look at these ten ways traveling to a new country can make you feel like a kid again, and explore GoAbroad.com for thousands of opportunities for YOU to go abroad!
1. You’re unable to speak
Okay, so you’re obviously not crawling around the streets of Germany while looking up at strangers trying to utter out the words “mama” and “dada;” however, not being able to communicate properly when it comes to foreign language brings you back to infancy. If you’re unfamiliar with the language, you usually find yourself playing a bad game of charades or making strange inhuman noises when trying to tell locals what you need.
Even if you’ve taken courses previously in the language, speaking it with locals – in real time, at a conversational pace – can throw you for a loop. Slang and strong accents may leave you wondering if you’re hearing the same language you spent five years studying.
2. You need to adjust to an eating schedule
You’re still in infancy with this one. Many times when you travel abroad, you need to adjust to a new eating schedule, especially if the country you’re abroad in eats breakfast/lunch/dinner at a different time than you’re used to. For example, locals in Italy are used to eating dinner between 8-10pm, whereas in the U.S., locals are used to eating dinner around 6pm.
Now, as your typical dinnertime rolls around, your stomach starts to growl hungrily, and you’ve reverted back to the hungry, crying baby who doesn’t understand why restaurants won’t serve you dinner at that hour.
3. You take naps
Although many of us in college have already reverted back to a daily nap after that 3pm class, some countries abide by the tradition of regularly taking afternoon naps (score!). If you’re lucky enough to be studying or volunteering abroad in one of these nations, you can relive your toddler days by squeezing in a post-lunch snooze.
4. You innocently bypass basic manners
You know the typical movie scene where a family is going on a road trip, and there’s always that ONE KID who asks, “Are we there yet?” every 2 minutes? Yeah, that was abroad-you, except with questions like, “What does this word mean?”, “Why are they dressed like that?”, and “Where the heck can I get some peanut butter?!”
You have become the small child who blurts out whatever they are thinking and who doesn’t understand what a personal bubble is. When traveling to a new destination, it can take a while to learn what is offensive, and what is acceptable in that culture. It is recommended to research the “do’s/dont’s” of the country you are traveling to in order to avoid any future awkward situations with a local — a few reminders for adjusting to a new way of behaving is just the ticket.
5. You get to geek out over holidays again
Remember all the times you’ve excitedly woke up your parents on Christmas morning? Well now that you get the experience different sets of holidays, it’s like Santa and presents all over again. Aside from a different language, lifestyle, and food, each country also has its own unique set of holidays and festivals; these usually spike more curiosity, and your inner 8-year-old behavior, because the holidays/festivals are such special and grand occasions. Even if you’ve done your research, or had classes on your study abroad destination before you arrived, you’ll still be curious to learn more about the traditions and culture of your host country.
6. You’re forced to try new foods
“Is that an actual snail on my plate? I thought escargot was a type of vegetable!” When you travel, you’ll naturally be introduced to a new variety of cultural foods; these foods may include a spectrum of animals – and even bugs/insects – that you’re simply not used to eating. While you’re abroad, you’ll need to try different meals and specialties, even if you think they look “yucky.”
Sound familiar? Let’s #tbt back to when you were 5-years-old, refusing to eat the plate of broccoli in front of you. Just because a food looks gross, doesn’t mean it actually is — I mean, if you think about it, guacamole kind of looks like puke, but tastes like heaven in a bowl.
7. You struggle with reading and writing
If you’re unfamiliar with the language spoken in your travel destination, reading and writing will be a struggle at first — welcome back to your first day of kindergarten! Even though learning how to read and write in a foreign language may seem like a #strugglebus at first, if you keep motivating yourself to practice each day, you’ll be impressing the locals with your skills in no time.
Remember that it takes practice and sincere dedication. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was your English vocabulary. Keep your chin up and don’t stop trying – soon you’ll be able to go to the grocery store and actually know what you’re buying.
8. You can’t tell time
Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally victimized by Time Difference. After stepping off that plane, it probably took you a few days, or even weeks, to adjust to it. What’s more, it may have also taken you a bit to learn how to factor in that time difference while texting/calling/video chatting your friends and family back home — bet your parents weren’t too thrilled when you accidentally called them at two in the morning. If you study or intern abroad in a country that uses military time but you’re used to a 12-hour clock, it may take a little while to adjust. And if you’re headed to somewhere that tells time in Swahili… well, best of luck.
Choosing a movie time may take more thinking than usual but that’s okay...baby steps, remember?
9. You need to make friends
Making friends is something that started from the sandbox and ends at the park during senior’s yoga sesh. But finding friends in an unfamiliar place, where you don’t know anyone, might bring you back to that first playground encounter. Sometimes making friends is easy, but other times it might remind you of the most awkward time of your life: middle school. Trying to befriend locals can be reminiscent of trying to become part of a clique. But like mom always said, just remain positive and be yourself — she’ll always love you even if no one else will.
10. You can’t drive
When traveling abroad, you need to rely on public transportation if you want to go anywhere. Just like before you got your driver’s license, everything needs to be planned ahead of time – and with the help of others. A minor detail perhaps, this new inconvenience and stray from your norm might actually make you better appreciate your old beater (or make you impassioned for improving public transport options in your own town!). At least you don’t have to ask your parents for a ride, right?
So, how does it feel to go through all the glory days twice in your life? All jokes aside, it’s okay to feel a bit childish and noobish while abroad – in fact, this place of humility and vulnerability is a good foundation for learning. Appreciate your newfound innocence and relish in how it changes the more comfortable you get with life abroad.
When they said that studying abroad was a life-changing experience, you probably didn’t think it’ll make you feel as if you were 5-years-old again, right? But it does, and it’s an important part of the process. Let that sparkling inner child shine!