Planes, Trains, Automobiles and Your Study Abroad Group
The beginning of spring semester marks the time when many of us overpack our bags, triple-check that we have our passports, leave our friends behind and begin a semester abroad. If I learned anything from my two study abroad experiences – besides which bar in Spain serves the best sangria (O’Hara’s in Salamanca) and how to say “where is the bathroom?” in Hungarian (“hol van a mosdo?” for all of you spending the semester in Budapest) – it is that there are certain personality types that can be found in each study abroad group.
Here are a few types of people you will most likely have the pleasure (or displeasure) of getting to know on your study abroad adventure…
The Complainer: Complainers will be in their element while traveling abroad. You would be surprised how many opportunities to complain arise while traveling; train seats can be uncomfortable, pastries can be too creamy (or, god forbid, not creamy enough), flowers can be allergy-provoking, the hostel doesn’t have wi-fi and they can’t get on Facebook, and oh so much more. You may see a beautiful beach in Australia but The Complainer sees a sunburn waiting to happen with a side of “The sand keeps getting in my eyes”.
The “Native”: “Natives” will claim to have a strong connection to the country where you are studying, but such claims will be based on hazy, indirect familial or personal ties. Wait, your great-uncle’s second cousin grew up in London? You’re practically a British native! “Natives” will be quick to correct your pronunciation of the language spoken where you are studying, and will seem to have a superior understanding of the culture (that they will not hesitate to share with the rest of the group).
The Self-Proclaimed Travel Expert: Self-Proclaimed Travel Experts are similar to “Natives”, but go one step beyond because not only are they experts on the place you are studying, but will also deem themselves experts on traveling in general. Oftentimes, extensive travel experience as a child will create a false sense of overconfidence in their ability to advise on any situation that may arise while traveling. Interestingly enough, these Self-Proclaimed Experts will appear to know exactly how bus or train systems work wherever you may be (despite never having visited this country before) and will inexplicably know the best neighborhoods to stay in and the best restaurants in town in EVERY town you visit.
The Type-A Leader: Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with doing extensive planning before embarking on a vacation. In fact, it’s preferable to have your trip planned out than get to a city and end up sleeping on a park bench using your backpack as a pillow. However, Type-A Leaders will exhibit planning tendencies that are perhaps a bit too intense for a college study abroad trip. After waking us up from our 5-hour night of sleep in a sketchy hostel in Amsterdam, the Type-A Leader from our group hustled us out the door to begin on the busy itinerary she had planned. When my friend said she wanted to stop in a café to grab a quick bite to eat, Type-A Leader, without slowing down her powerwalk, retorted “There will be time for lunch after the Tulip Museum”. We trekked on.
The Out-of-Control Rager: Partying is a given on any study abroad trip (even though most of us wouldn’t want to admit this to our parents!), but the Out-of-Control Rager will out-party anyone else on your trip. You will think you had a crazy night out in Madrid until you hear in class the next morning that the Out-of-Control Rager woke up on a beach… in Portugal. The best part about this person is listening to them come up with explanations for their behavior. In my experience, the Rager will make up cultural explanations that are often based on inaccuracies such as “French people always party so hard that they pass out in the bar” or “In Switzerland it’s actually not considered a bad thing to give guys lap dances in clubs”. Expect to have to lend this person your notes from the classes that they will inevitably miss.
The best advice when dealing with any of these personality types is to focus on your own trip and try to have the most amazing time possible. When you feel like strangling The Self-Proclaimed Expert or lecturing The Complainer about how they aren’t appreciating the incredible 14th century village you are touring, just remember that their attitudes shouldn’t affect your trip.
Hopefully seeing these descriptions will help you avoid becoming one of these people yourself. To reiterate, just because your best friend from middle school had an Italian last name doesn’t make you a native in Italy. Just relax and enjoy the pasta!