To Be Honest...

Lund, Sweden 
Studying abroad is portrayed as the best time of your life. The time where you get to find yourself. The time where you have the most fun. The time where you meet your best friends. The time where you find who you are. This may be true... but to be honest, studying abroad has been one of the most difficult, lonely, and soul-searching times of my life thus far. Culture shock is such a general word for it, but it is so much more than getting adjusted to a new culture, it is the yearning for a support group, the want to be understood, but most importantly getting used to being by yourself.

One of the most difficult things for me has been finding a support group to encourage me while I'm here in Denmark. When you move to another country you are literally picked up and dropped in a country with no support group. You may know some people in the country but they don't truly understand you, that takes time and effort and is not immediately in place when you get here. When you're living somewhere for only a semester it's difficult to make relationships where you can open up your heart and be vulnerable by sharing with others the difficulties and struggles with your life. Even when you open up your heart, it's difficult to receive the encouragement you need because people don't know you like your support network back home does. I have missed my friends the most while I've been over here. Yes, I'm able to Skype/Facetime and text them, but there's something totally different about going to your friend to tell them in person what excited things are happening in your life or calling them to ask for prayer and them offering you encouragement or advice in return. I love getting to know new people and going deep in conversation, but it takes time for me to trust them in order to reveal my heart's desires and soul's questions.

As humans we all desire to be understood; that's one reason I write a blog. I desire for people to understand how I think and my thought process, but more than that, I write so that I can understand myself better. When you're living in a foreign country you are not understood in the same way anymore. Your humor, way of communicating, and even your likes and dislikes are subject to the magnifying glass of the culture you are now in. This is not a bad thing in and of itself as it causes you to look at your culture back home in a different light and examine your reasons for why you are the way you are, but it is confusing and difficult to adjust to. The foundation you stand on is being chipped away while you try to balance and still stand strong on the foundation. When I meet someone who is American, it is a sigh of relief. They understand me, my language, how I act and how I live and we often share similar humor. It is relaxing and comfortable. It takes a lot of time and effort to get to know people from other cultures because it's literally a whole different culture. It's so worth it to get to know them and learn to think of things differently, but it is nice to be able to relate to those from your own culture every once in a while.

Studying abroad requires you to be comfortable with being alone. I'm literally half introvert half extrovert, but I've found myself utilizing more of my introverted self while I've been here. I've definitely enjoyed being able to think and ponder the ins and outs of life, but there are times like yesterday when I needed a big bear hug from either my family or my friends and no one was there to give me one. It is in those times that you grow the most. You are a penguin on an iceberg in the middle of a wide, wide ocean; It's only you and God and you can either choose to wallow in the sadness of your loneliness, or ponder it and examine the root cause of it. I may still be lonely some days, and that's ok, but I have grown a lot through addressing my loneliness and clinging to the Lord during this time.

Studying abroad has been great, and I know I'll look back on it as one of the best times of my life, but I wanted to be honest about what studying abroad is like as I feel like not all aspects of it are fully represented within the American culture.

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