#SeanAbroad – The Perks to Having Relatives & Friends Visit While Studying Abroad

By: GoEnnounce Student Sean Kirkpatrick

I’m Sean, a junior in college, and a first time study abroad student. I am studying abroad at London South Bank University for this semester. As I’m abroad, I’ll be sharing my adventures, experiences, lessons, (and maybe even mishaps!) as I venture through my semester across the world. Please be sure to check back in and follow my posts on Twitter with the hashtag #SeanAbroad.

For most students, studying abroad is not only a experience for you as a student to get to visit and see these awesome new places, it also an excuse for family members to go on vacation to see you. And, if you are lucky, they will include you in their adventures as a “vacationer”, which is nice when typically you’ve been living on a student friendly budget. Also, after being away from home for so long, you get a little homesick and seeing friends and family can help you get through that last month or few weeks.

So far I have been studying abroad for 5 months. In my case, this was the longest I had ever been away from my parents.  A lot of the people I know who are abroad with me, at this stage of the semester are getting antsy to go back home and see friends and family. Having a parent or family member visit towards the end of your time abroad, sort of eases that feeling of wanting to go home. And don’t get me wrong, wanting to go home is a good thing, though it shouldn’t spoil the last month and weeks of your semester abroad. It doesn’t even need to be a family member, sometimes event just having a friend come to visit can cure the homesickness you might be feeling. Having my Aunt and my Dad come to visit me at this point in the semester was just what I needed. This is why I highly suggest scheduling your family or friend visits towards the middle/end of your time abroad.  If you have your visitors come in the beginning of the semester, I think it makes you miss home even more when they leave. You haven’t had time to adapt and you cling to family and find it harder to be there and put yourself out there to try new things once they are gone.  Going abroad is a chance to make new friends. If your family is there in the beginning, you can miss out on a lot of the initial bonding that takes place amongst the other students right away.

A lot of the time, in places such as London, most of the touristy things that you would want to do are expensive. Between food and various other activities that people do on the weekends, as a student, you might not have the money for everything. When a relative comes to visit, because it’s more like a vacation for them, they are looking to do fun, touristy activities. I would recommend saving some of things you might not prioritize as stuff you would do on your own, so you can enjoy them with your family and friends that visit. An example of this, for me, was a really expensive bus tour that I’d been hearing good things about throughout the semester, but couldn’t justify paying for on my budget.   When my Aunt and Dad visited me, I was able to recommend this as something for us all to do (also a bonus when they covered my cost!). It turned out to be awesome!

Another benefit of having friends of family visit later on in the semester, vs in the beginning is that you can recommend things to do that you’ve been hearing about.  I definitely recommend compiling a list of the more “touristy” types of things to do, that you hear about throughout the semester, and save these as things to do with the vacationers who visit.  Even if you can initially afford it, you only have so much time in the semester to ‘do it all’ and this way you don’t end up doing things twice with visitors.

While having visitors when you’re abroad is awesome, I did find myself getting a bit annoyed at times.  Because you have been living in the city you have been studying abroad in for a while, you start to feel like a local. When a relative visits, they are a tourist and you instantly become a tour guide and trip advisor and you’re most likely still busy with school.  (Another reason why I recommend the list above- even if you can’t go with them you have things to advise them to do!)  On the first day my relatives were in London, I was getting asked things like ‘Where is the best place for this type of food near a this location?’, ‘What’s the best way to get to this from this?’, ‘What is that and why is it like that?’, etc.  At first, I was glad to answer them because it made me feel like I learned a lot!  You realize you’ve become a bit of a local and know the ways to act in the place you are studying that a tourist might not.  When their questions started to get a little bothersome, I just had to remember how cool it was to realize that I’d acclimated and really learned the culture as a local. You see how visiting family members stand out as more of a tourist and do things you wouldn’t do. For example – I had to teach them there are just certain things you just don’t do in London such as no talking on the Tube (the subway in London) and no slow leisurely walking down busy streets, you must walk at a swift pace to not hinder passerby.

Relatives visiting is an awesome experience when studying abroad and I highly encourage everyone who is planning on studying abroad to send an invitation to their family and friends to come visit them, but the timing of their visits is key!  It can remind you that home is never far away and it can also show you how you have adapted to the norms of the place you are living in. I’m sure my adventures with my dad and my aunt will also be another fun thing to look back on when my time abroad is done.

Stay tuned for my next post and follow #SeanAbroad on GoEnnounce!

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