Can’t Help But Brag: Study Abroad Struggles

We live in a society where everyone asks, “What’s new?” or “How are you?” but no one seems to care about the response. We reply with a dull “not much” or “good, how are you?” And then wait for another meaningless answer. We ask these questions to be polite, but how often are people genuinely interested? Especially when your response is a lot more exciting than theirs would be. We are jealous, bitter people– it’s in our human nature. But we ask these questions because it’s common courtesy, and we don’t want to seem rude (even though we are).

The worst case comes when you study abroad because you have so much to share, but to be honest– no one back in the small town of Glenside, Pennsylvania wants to hear anything about your life-changing experiences because while you spent a weekend partying in Amsterdam, your friends went to another shitty house party that probably got busted before midnight. Your constant traveling and experiences in a foreign country will never fail to make everyone sitting back home hate their boring, routine lives. And you.

Some people who study abroad understand this, while others think that everyone is fascinated by their experiences. This doesn’t mean absolutely everyone isn’t interested. I’m sure your mom and dad actually care. But the stories you really want to share are probably the ones best kept from your parents. But how many times can your friends handle listening to you go on and on about your beautiful foreign roommates before they start ignoring your messages. You can’t be mad at them for this. They want to be interested in your life. But while they’re staring at the same four walls of their Oak Summit apartment, you’re out getting a taste of all different parts of the world, and they’re going to get tired of hearing about it.

Even if someone is honestly interested in your trip and wants to hear “all about it” you would never be able to describe it all. Too much has happened. I would never be able to explain in detail all the amazing opportunities I’ve had, the people I have met, and the adventures I’ve taken without wasting hours of someone else’s time. When someone back home asks me, “How’s Australia?” I couldn’t even begin to describe the highs and lows and craziness of everything that has been happening.  Maybe I could tell them about how I spent an entire weekend on North Stradbroke Island learning how to surf and sandboard and kayak, and didn’t have to pay for a single thing (thanks Arcadia!). Or I could mention how last weekend I went to the most beautiful beach in the world, got to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, and found my potential Australian husband (just kidding, maybe). I could tell them about the first time I got to hold a koala and pet a kangaroo. Or explain the difference between a nice Australian accent and a bogan one. But no matter what I tell them, it just sounds like I’m bragging. Instead, maybe I could tell them how I felt really homesick so I stayed in bed all day watching Netflix and eating overpriced Nutella out of the jar. Or that even though I’m in Australia, I still have classes to go to and essays to write and all-nighters filled with red bull WITHOUT vodka.  But how lame doeDSCN0530s that make my entire semester seem?

We can partially blame social media. Most likely everyone has already seen all your pictures on Facebook and read all your tweets and hate you enough as it is. The constant upload of beautiful pictures from weekend excursions and simply everyday life in a foreign country is enough to drive anyone crazy with jealousy. Especially when it’s somewhere they wish they could be. Or somewhere they’ve already been that they wish they could go back to. Or when it is winter in PA, and your friends are dreading leaving their heated apartments, meanwhile I’m posting pictures of the beautiful, sunny beaches around Australia.

But what else are we supposed to do? We have to share our experiences with someone. And we shouldn’t have to feel guilty about it. I guess that’s why blogging has become so popular. But while it may seem like we are having a much better time than those of you at home (and not gonna lie, we probably are), we still get that FOMO too. Sometimes there is nothing I want more than to be hungover on my best friend’s couch eating mac n cheese and watching Food Network. No matter what great experiences I have abroad, there will still always be a nostalgia for people and places (and pizza) back home. So to all the friends who haven’t had the opportunity to travel and are stuck listening to our awesome stories, try to be patient with us. We’re not bragging on purpose. And I’m sure you have cool stories to share too. Even if it is just about another drunk night at Towers. And to anyone who has studied abroad and has had this problem, try not to brag TOO much to your friends. Keep it subtle. Start a blog. Or share your experiences with us at WanderLUST. And in the midst of all the bragging, don’t forget to remind your friends back home how much you still love and miss them.

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Don’t Shit Where You Eat

by Brittany Tedesco

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There are some people who can take other people’s advice and learn from their mistakes. But there are some of us who have to touch the fire and get burned to learn. I am one of those people.

From the moment I moved into my student accommodation and saw my beautiful (male) flatmates, I knew I was about to be playing with fire. All my friends told me that handy little piece of advice, “Don’t Shit Where You Eat.” And I probably should’ve listened. But when the most beautiful boy you’ve ever seen knocks on your door at three in the morning while you’re both intoxicated and says in the most beautiful British accent you’ve ever heard, “Can I kiss you?” how can you possibly say no?

After that night, I thought nothing of it. Shit happens. But I barely saw him for a while after that. Maybe he’s avoiding me, maybe things are awkward now. Until eventually we crossed each other’s paths again. And eventually he was knocking on my door again. And before I knew what was going on, he had moved into my room– toothbrush, skateboard, clothes, and all.

And still, my friends kept warning me, “You need to kick him out” and “This isn’t going to turn out well.” But I refused to listen, even though I knew they were right. He would eat all my food, use all my shampoo, hog all the blankets, and play loud music in the morning even if I was still asleep. But I was in complete denial. I enjoyed his company. And maybe it was just convenience, sure. We’d watch Netflix, hook up, and go to sleep. There was honestly nothing else that I wanted.  (I mean, have I mentioned how beautiful and British he was?)

But we were never exclusive. And we never wanted to be. Or at least he never wanted to be. And I never admitted that I wanted to be. But nothing burned worse than the night we went out to a club together, and he left with another girl instead of me. And my bed felt empty, and I couldn’t sleep. Things were always subtly awkward after that.  He still stayed over a few more times, but we both knew it had to end. His lease ended and he not only moved out of my room, but out of the apartment. And he slowly faded out of my life, so now we don’t even speak.

But I still wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. I had fun with him, and sure I got hurt and used, but I had to. I couldn’t have listened to anyone else, no matter how many times they tried to warn me. So as much as I’d like to stop you from making my mistakes and tell you not to hook up with your roommates, no matter how beautiful and British they are, I know you probably won’t listen. And I don’t blame you.  But if there’s one piece of advice you should actually take, it’s this: If you want to play with fire, expect to get burnt. But don’t let that stop you. Fire is a beautiful thing. What’s worse than getting burnt is how cold you will feel when the fire goes out. But only for a little while. Only until you realize you now have the entire blanket to yourself.

Photo credit: http://blueascookiemonster.tumblr.com/post/87232338084