Skip to Content

### Exploring the Truths of Overseas Education

Studying overseas presents a unique and unforgettable opportunity, offering a chance to reside in a foreign land temporarily. This period allows for the exploration of diverse cultures and a glimpse into an alternative way of life. I undertook a program at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, a country I had not previously visited. Despite the frequent rain, which was quite the contrast to the idyllic image of sunshine and rainbows, the experiences encountered during this period were largely personal and distinct to each individual and their peers in the program. The question “How was studying abroad?” does not lend itself to a simple answer.

The initial month abroad is filled with excitement, characterized by meeting new acquaintances and adjusting to life in a new city and dormitory. This adjustment is particularly noticeable when relocating to a country with a lower legal drinking age, where social gatherings often revolve around bars and shared drinks. The moment I acquired a bicycle, the realization that this was not a mere vacation but a more extended stay set in.

As the second month unfolds, a sense of routine begins to take shape. One becomes familiar with the commute to school, the time required for studying, preferred cafes for academic pursuits, and the choice of friends for dinner engagements. Gradually, a feeling of assimilation into the local lifestyle emerges. Visitors from home, like my friend Cate, provided an opportunity to showcase my newfound familiarity with the surroundings, even utilizing my limited knowledge of Dutch to interpret street signs and serve as a guide. Our mutual experiences in different cities—Copenhagen for her and Utrecht for me—highlighted the excitement of embracing our temporary lifestyles and exploring the locales.

For introverts and homebodies, the study abroad journey may evoke feelings of isolation. The essence of the experience lies in venturing out to discover a new country and forge new connections, both of which necessitate stepping out of one’s comfort zone. Despite considering myself more extroverted, the repetitive nature of introductions became tiresome, craving deeper conversations beyond the sunny reputation of San Diego. Engaging in Welcome Week proved to be a pivotal decision, introducing me to friends who defined my overseas adventure.

The fear of missing out, particularly when accustomed to a vibrant social life back home, looms large during the study abroad stint. My life in San Diego revolves around friends and the ultimate frisbee club team, making it challenging to celebrate milestones like birthdays with newfound acquaintances. Stepping out of my usual reticence, I opted to organize my birthday celebration, a departure from my customary low-key approach. Additionally, my love for exploring new cuisines stirred nostalgia for the foodie community back in San Diego. Witnessing the progress and changes in the lives of friends from afar felt akin to observing a movie unfold.

Returning to UC San Diego posed unexpected challenges in readjustment. The transition proved more demanding than anticipated, with upper-division major courses replacing lower-division general education classes. The academic landscape at UCSD demanded adherence to numerous deadlines, from quizzes to assignments to discussion sessions, contrasting with the more relaxed pace in Europe. It was reassuring to discover that fellow study abroad peers also grappled with the swift tempo of the quarter system upon their return.

Undoubtedly, studying abroad is a unique and unparalleled experience, offering a window to immerse oneself in a foreign culture for a brief period. Novel encounters require a degree of inner drive to fully embrace them. While moments of homesickness may arise, it is imperative to remember that these feelings are transient, and friends back home are eager to hear about your adventures abroad.