View from abroad: Studying abroad requires maturity

Ask anyone who conducts a study abroad program what is the most important aspect to consider when researching study abroad, and the answer you receive will vary. Some will say the location of the program (before swooping down on you to tell you about their programs in London), while others will state the offerings of the program as most crucial (you won’t be bored in Sydney, they promise). But, to be brutally honest, not everyone is meant to study abroad.

Of 60 participants in the Cyprus program for the fall, only a handful of students actually knew each other before arriving in Cyprus. The rest were perfect strangers. Two things tied all of us together: knowledge that we would be spending the next few months living together on this small island – that we would have to make the best of any differences that arose – and that we all hailed from schools across the U.S. And, with all of us having varying expectations of the semester ahead, it only made sense that perhaps a few tensions may exist between people. But college students should be capable of working their differences out, right?

Luckily for me, the wall bordering our living room and the apartment next door is paper-thin, allowing my roommates and me to hear the daily "situations" between that group of four students. From doors slamming early in the morning to furniture being banged at 2 a.m., it was evident that they had issues to work out. Of the four women living there, three got along fairly well, leaving the odd woman out who appeared to be the "problem roommate." Reports stated she not only neglected to pick up after herself, but stole food from others, refused to pay for her meals at restaurants, and even repeatedly insulted other students on a regular basis. If it wasn’t for the fact that I could hear her bigoted comments and hyena laugh all the way in my apartment, I wouldn’t have believed it myself. When I ran into her at one point between classes, she began releasing a barrage of harsh comments about her roommates, calling herself ‘Cinderella’ when recounting how she was forced by her roommates to clean up her mess.

I had to stop myself from laughing at her incredulity; she honestly expected her roommates to take care of her while in Cyprus. For the first time during the semester, I had encountered something unexpected: a person who should have waited to participate in a study abroad program. Even though I do not live on my own while at UH, the reality remains that once you have entered into the world of adulthood, you’re to behave as one. Her utter lack of understanding that since she was in a foreign country, she was responsible for her own actions was problematic. There was no ‘apartment mom’ to pick up her mess.

Last night, I noticed two large suitcases outside the doorway of that apartment. After the three attempted a discussion with ‘Cinderella’ regarding her disrespectful behavior, she had chosen to shun her roommates and move out. Her reason for leaving was simply that the other three were being "mean."

Studying in a foreign country requires adjusting to a new language, water constraints, local customs, as well as to the people you will be living with. An experience such as this is meant to provide for academic and personal growth – characteristics of maturity and selflessness are necessary. If you’re unwilling to grow up, studying in a foreign country is not meant to be; but bring a healthy dosage of maturity with you to truly enjoy the experience

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