It’s 9:45pm here in Santiago, Chile and I’m drinking instant coffee to stay awake. I don’t know where my phone is. It’s here, somewhere, but it is buried under a mountain of books and papers. I can hardly count the amount of Internet tabs, excel spreadsheets, and PDF downloads I have open right now. I’m anxious and sweating and confused. This is study abroad anxiety and I’m here to tell you what some of the difficulties of studying abroad are.
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I made sure to arrive in Santiago, Chile a few weeks before my classes started so that I could have time to explore and get adjusted to the time change. These first couple of weeks were fascinating and I got to see so much of Santiago and other nearby cities. The host family I’m living with have a daughter around my age who is in university in Valparaiso so I got to hang out with her there and she has been showing me around.
Last week, I attended my school’s International Student Orientation and it was so exciting. I met tonnes of fellow exchange students from all over the world and we were all so pumped to start registering for courses because PUC has a “shopping week”. This means we can try out whatever classes we want, see if we like them, and then register. Sounds fun right?
Wrong. First of all “registering” for a course isn’t so simple. You have to go talk to the dean of the faculty in person to register, so if you’re like me and you’re taking classes from three or four different faculties, you have to navigate the maze that is Santiago, go to different campuses, and talk to all the deans. Because there’s only room in each class for a certain number of people, all the students here actually need to make up their minds and register for the classes they need quickly so that they can get into their classes. Side note: this is all done in Spanish, meaning my broken Spanglish isn’t quite cutting it…
Did I mention transfer credits? They’re these little points that need to transfer to your school back in wherever-you-came-all-the-way-to-Chile (or whatever country you’re studying in) -from. Now, being as organized as I am, I planned out exactly which courses to take before Monday morning.
However, I got all the times of those courses wrong. So I missed my first class on Monday and my second one was cancelled. Today is Tuesday and my alarm decided it didn’t want to wake me up this morning – either I slept through it (which is crazy because it was supposed to go off like five times) – or it just decided it didn’t want to work today. Anyways I missed my first class, but (insert happy dance here) I was still able to register for it which is awesome because it’s a dance class and dance isn’t offered at my school back home.
Except that I just read an email from my adviser back home saying I probably won’t be able to take that class. Or half of the other classes I had chosen. So now it’s back to the drawing board. I just finished making up two different timetables. One is for if I am able to take that dance class and one is for if I’m not able to take it.
Now I just need to finish putting the course codes, timetables, course descriptions, and syllabuses into my Transfer Credit Portal to make sure these courses transfer properly. This sounds okay but it’s actually taking me way too long because it’s hard enough navigating a university website, but doing it in Spanish presents a whole new challenge.
The good thing is, all of us exchange students are in the exact same boat. We’re all getting stressed together which means that once this week is over, we’re all going to want to celebrate… and I can’t wait for a weekend of parties and you know perhaps skiing the Andes.
If you are about to go study abroad take my advice and research the courses you want to take way ahead of time. Do not leave it until the last minute. Many universities throughout the world have multiple campuses in the same city. Make sure your courses are all at one campus or that you have enough time between classes to get to different campuses. Above all else take a deep breath, the first week is the hardest and after you get through it you will be over the moon with gratitude since you chose to study abroad.
April is the founder and main author for Just Leaving Footprints. She has written for numerous blogs and publications such as Explore Magazine and Snow Pak. April loves writing about sustainable tourism, and promoting other sustainable travelers on her Facebook Group and Instagram Community, Ladies for Sustainable Travel. Currently, April is living and teaching English in Mexico City with her husband Arturo and they don’t plan on stopping their travels anytime soon.
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