I made a huge leap of faith.
Instead of following my friends to the Big 10 universities, I decided to go far away.
With some luck, some guts and a lot of trust, I ended up going to college in Israel.
I’d been to Israel before, but I still had no idea what to expect or how I would adjust to moving across the world to attend a college I had never even visited.
After spending my vacation at home in Ohio, I'm going back to Israel to start my second year of school.
Now that I’ve lived in Israel for a year, I know a little more of what to expect living abroad.
Here are a few things I've learned along the way:
1. The food will (most likely) be really different.
I spent my first couple of weeks overspending on American imported foods from the grocery store.
The labels were in a foreign language, the boxes were different colors and everything was different. It was easy and comforting to just buy the brands I knew.
Well, those brands are expensive when you’re not in America.
It’s better to test out local, cheaper brands of food from the grocery than to grossly overspend.
Don’t be afraid to try something new. New yogurt, new chocolate, new me.
After realizing all imported candy tastes stale, I ventured to try Israeli chocolate, and guess what? It tastes incredible.
My personal favorite is Elite Chocolate with Pop Rocks. (It sounds gross, but it’s actual heaven on Earth.)
2. Jet lag will be a bitch.
I’m sure you knew that. But, my first week living abroad I decided to give in and sleep whenever I damn well pleased.
How well do you think that worked out for me? (Hint: Not well at all.)
Turns out, my mom was right.
Push yourself to live on the schedule of the place you're living, even it’s hard. Do whatever you need to stay awake, and get on a regular schedule.
Have you seen the episode of "Parks and Recreation" where Andy is jet lagged and doesn’t do anything about it?
That was me, and it wasn’t pretty.
3. Adjusting will be exhausting.
My first week, I stressed myself out by attending long days of school, and then going home and attempting to cook myself a fancy meal before going out to parties and bars, all while being jet lagged, homesick and anxious.
This led me to have a pretty awful anxiety attack. I’d never had one before, and it was terrifying.
Don’t push yourself too hard while you’re adjusting to a new place. There's no shame in ordering delivery and staying in when you’re exhausted.
The bars will always be there, and the parties will always be happening. So, don’t let yourself experience too much FOMO if you need to rest a while.
4. Alcohol will be extremely tempting, especially when you’re legal for the first time.
When I moved to Israel, I had just turned 19. The drinking age is 18 there, and I went hard on the grocery store wine.
Drinking is awesome, but over-drinking on a “wine night” with friends will be absolutely miserable. And throwing up in your friend’s toilet all night is even more miserable.
Take it slow because drinking legally also means drinking responsibly.
5. Going out of your comfort zone will often save you money.
It might be easy to take a cab everywhere you go, but not everyone has the extra money to drop on a cab ride every day.
As scary as it can be, learn to use public transportation. Buses and trains are cheap and easy to navigate.
Just like everything abroad, it takes some getting used to. The amount of money you’ll save is worth it.
6. You’ll walk way more than you ever have in your life.
As if it’s any surprise, every other place in the world has people using their own bodies to move from point A to point B.
You might be used to jumping in the car to go to CVS a mile away, but chances are, you won’t have a car abroad.
As an admittedly lazy American, all the walking did take some getting used to, and it even came as a bit of a surprise.
Studying abroad usually means being in a city, where everything is walking distance anyway.
Walking gives you the opportunity to familiarize yourself with your city and find new and offbeat places to go and shop.
Pop in some headphones to pass the time, or try to pick up the local language by listening to people talk or reading signs.
If you’re really far, I suggest a bike.
In Israel, everyone has these fancy electric bikes, but I invested in a good old fashioned one. It got me from point A to point B, even without the electricity.
7. People won't smile as much.
Depending on where you come from, you may or may not be used to this.
In Ohio, we smile and maybe even wave or say hello to everyone we pass on the street or see at the grocery store.
In Europe and in the Middle East, people don’t smile as much, but it doesn’t mean people are unfriendly.
Yes, it makes asking for help or directions a little more scary, but people are just as kind and just as willing to help you out.
You get bonus points if you try to ask in the local language, even if you completely botch what you’re trying to say.
8. Travel will be cheap.
Yes, you heard that right. Flights from Israel to anywhere in Europe are cheap as hell.
So, don’t feel bad if you want to take a spontaneous getaway for a long weekend.
My friend and I took a spontaneous trip to Brussels to see my favorite band, and we ended up hanging out with them. It was one of the best weekends of my life.
Concerts are fun, but you don’t ever need an excuse to travel.
Websites like Skyscanner can show you the cheapest places to fly on any given day, week or month.
Flights can be as cheap at $100, and places that might not seem interesting or fun actually have the most beautiful and unexpected adventures.
9. Opportunities will be everywhere.
Hopping on a bus to a new neighborhood is not only cheap, but it’s also fun.
If there’s a nearby town or neighborhood you haven’t explored yet, grab a friend and go. Spontaneity is great, especially abroad.
Bring a few extra bucks and a camera, and you’ll have an incredible day exploring a new area.
There are always cool festivals and events to attend.
Sometimes they suck, but you’ll never know if you don’t go. The most awkward poetry readings can end up making the best memories.
10. You’ll have an amazing experience.
Sometimes, you’ll be lonely. Sometimes, you’ll be bored.
Sometimes, you’ll be stressed. Sometimes, you’ll need to sit down and cry, and that’s fine.
These feelings are normal.
Remember where you are and why you’re there. Remember every new place has something amazing to offer.
Try new things, slap on a smile and don’t take life too seriously.