This past semester has been an enormous learning curve filled with new and different experiences that have helped me grow. I feel proud as I am reflecting, of having gone abroad and immersed myself in a new cultural environment. I lived in a country for 4 months where I did not even speak the native language. It was an adjustment and overall am grateful to have had the opportunity. However, with this, there are also the parts of living and studying abroad that are not as known or talked about, and definitely a few things I would have liked to have known before moving abroad.
While this one might seem obvious, where you choose to study can vary dramatically depending on the university. Even universities within the same city have very different curriculum styles and outlines which I was not familiar with. I took two quite challenging courses abroad for my major that both had final exams worth 60% of my grade. I have never had to take a test worth so many points towards my final grade before and it was quite stressful to say the least. I would definitely recommend looking not only at the courses and making sure they transfer over, but that the course requirement and breakdown are a match as well. Along with the exam being worth so many points, the university I attended was based primarily on a point system. This means there were no average grades, and you had to earn points on every assignment to get as close to 100 as possible. However, as the final was worth so much of the grade, the other 40 points (at least in my classes) were only split up between a few assignments with small amounts of points. I mention this because it was definitely something that kept me anxious throughout the semester, making sure I was on track to reach as close to 100 as I needed to be (or whatever grade needed to transfer over.)
The second biggest factor I wish I had known going into being abroad was living situations. I was an exchange student so I had to pick my own housing from a list of providers. I chose one of the providers and the location was centrally located, however in a big city like Vienna, this meant I was in the middle of the city, as opposed to closer towards my university. This was not a problem with the public transportation system, but it was definitely a factor I would have reconsidered when choosing my housing.
I have grown an enormous amount here and am changed for the better from my experiences abroad, these are just a few decisions I recommend being thorough when considering and wish I knew beforehand.