5 Study Abroad Fears & How to Conquer Them

By Kaitlyn Webster, Marketing Associate

Traveling alone to a foreign country is intimidating, and the thought of leaving the comfort of your home, school, family, and friends can be overwhelming even to the most adventurous students. While it’s true that studying abroad will have its challenges, it doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, many of the fears you have about going abroad are unfounded. Don’t believe us? Take it from study abroad alumni who have been there, done that, and learned a thing or two about spending a semester in another country. Here’s what ISA alumni have to say about some of the most common study abroad fears.

The world awaits! So what are you waiting for?

Fear #1: You Can’t Afford to Study Abroad

This study abroad myth couldn’t be more false. Not only are there loads of financial aid options for students, but some countries are even less expensive to live and study in compared to the U.S.

“Sadly, many people count themselves out of studying abroad far too early because they believe it will be too expensive. If your dream is to study in Norway and fly to a new European country every weekend, then, yes, your semester might be considerably more expensive than a semester at your home institution. However, I actually saved money by going to Cape Town: the cost of living is low, and the U.S. dollar is much stronger than the South African Rand. Additionally, all of my financial aid carried over, so my home institution paid for some of my ISA fees.” – ISA Cape Town alum Heather O’Keefe from her blog, “What’s Your Excuse for Not Studying Abroad?”

Fear #2: The International Universities Won’t Have the Classes You’re Looking For

This is one of the most common concerns for prospective study abroad students, but with so many programs available, including internships and service-learning options, there’s truly a study abroad program for every student, even STEM majors.

“Ask any student this: ‘Have you ever dreamt of studying abroad?’ Most, if not all, would say yes. However, only a small percentage of students actually fulfill this dream. Many assume that studying abroad is intended mostly for language and international relations majors. Truthfully, most programs that appear in a search are related to the arts, language, politics, and society. But in recent years, more and more STEM-related courses appear in study abroad programs. So, for every would-be doctor, engineer, chemist, mathematician, and so on, that seemingly crazy dream of studying abroad is much easier to fulfill than you think.” – ISA Glasgow alum Ariella Poon from her blog, “Study Abroad for the Average STEM Student.”

Travel buddies are forever friends (Photo by Jackson Martin)

Fear #3: You Won’t Make Friends Abroad

It’s difficult to leave your friends behind and start all over at a new school. The good news? Most study abroad students are in the same situation, looking to make new friends who will end up becoming their best travel buddies.

“Right when I landed in Athens, I met about five people who were also studying abroad with ISA. We talked about how excited we were about the experience, the classes, our nerves, and the plane ride over. We were all in the same boat: traveling abroad alone and just waiting for the adventure to start. By the time we arrived at our dorms, I already had made so many connections and friends!” – ISA Athens alum Bridgette McRoberts from her blog, “5 Things to Know Before Studying Abroad for a Month.”

Fear #4: The Language Barrier Will Get in the Way

No matter how many language classes you’ve taken, immersing yourself in a country where you aren’t fluent in the native language can be daunting. Luckily, language barriers are easy to overcome through study, practice, and the help of friendly locals.

“I knew absolutely no Thai when I applied for ISA’s Bangkok’s program, and communicating with a language barrier was one of my bigger concerns before I left. Two years ago, I spent a semester in Costa Rica, and even with a few years of Spanish classes under my belt, it was still a challenge to communicate with my host family at times. So I knew from experience – three months was definitely not going to be long enough to gain fluency in another language, especially one as difficult as Thai. But I went for it, bought a couple of language dictionaries, and learned as many survival phrases as I could. And, big surprise, things turned out just fine.” – ISA Bangkok alum Miranda Brown from her blog, “Life With a Language Barrier.”

Enjoy the comforts of home even when you’re abroad. (Photo by Asjia Garner)

Fear #5: You’ll Get Homesick

Culture shock can be a side-effect of going abroad, but ISA helps minimize your feelings of homesickness through their on-site orientation, the Bridging Cultures Program. During the BCP, new study abroad students will learn about the local culture, meet other students in their program, and attend orientation sessions designed to teach them the skills they’ll need to be successful in their study abroad program.

“I’ll always be thankful I went on the Bridging Cultures Program. This program helped me get over fears of being alone in another country because I found out I wasn’t really alone. I got to meet some amazing people in these four days and have some amazing experiences that won’t be forgotten.” – ISA Townsville alum Adam Desjardins from his blog, “Bridging Cultures of Australia.”


For more help addressing your concerns about studying abroad, schedule an advising session with a member of our Student Outreach Team.

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