When you study abroad, it can seem like everything happens suddenly on campus. Facilities get upgraded, celebrities visit, your organizations host events you want to go to, and, if you’re at an HBCU, Homecoming happens. You can feel isolated while watching everyone on campus do the things you want to do. Concurrently, while abroad, you can feel like you’re never doing enough or missing out on once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Coupled with culture shock, the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) is a powerful emotion you’ll encounter at multiple points in your study abroad journey. Here are five things to consider when dealing with FOMO while abroad.
Your plans will fall apart— but that doesn’t mean you have to! I planned to go to Kobe because it is my Japanese sensei’s hometown, but it’s not that popular of a destination. I opened up an invitation to go to those in our program and went with those who responded. However, I would’ve been just fine going by myself.
1. Not Much Has Changed at Home
Maintain your relationships with those back home. They’ll tell you firsthand that not much has changed. When you’re abroad or feeling homesick, it can be easy to romanticize the good things about home and hyperfocus on the bad things about your host country. In reality, the mundanity of life in your host country would be the same back home.
2. Remember Your Goals
You chose to study abroad for a reason! Remind yourself of your goals. Is it to improve your language ability? Learn more about the host culture? Make new friends? Write your goals down and keep them where you can see them daily. Start brainstorming ways to realize your goals. Don’t be afraid to reach out to CET staff— they are here to help you realize your goals!
3. No Journey is Alike
Are your peers in Tokyo (or a comparable city) every weekend while you study? Are you not that much of a party person? Are you on a tight budget? All of this is normal. No two study abroad experiences will be the same. However, it is important to balance both academic and social life. You don’t have to take expensive trips or spend tons of money on food— although it is okay to treat yourself once in a while. There is a lot to do in your host city! Explore with friends or go solo, go downtown, craft your own spot list… there’s lots to do!
I decided to treat myself to the super popular Matcha tiramisu dessert when I happened upon a Matcha café in Namba station. I’ve always wanted to try it. Out of all the social-media-popular desserts I’ve had so far, this was the most delicious! On the same day, I had jiggly cheesecake with a friend who had always wanted to try it— but it was disappointing.
4. Appreciate the Little Things
You don’t know what you have until you’re 4,000 miles away, but that doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate what you have now. I know I appreciate the excellent public transportation and good prices in Japan. Safety, convenience stores, and the unique opportunity to practice Japanese with native speakers too. Ground yourself in your reality and seek those everyday moments of joy.
5. Find Your Community Abroad (or Go It Alone)
Like-minded people exist in all countries. Your community is out there— whether they be CET or non-CET. Join clubs (or circles) at your host institution, or attend music festivals, museums, and other cultural activities you like to do at home abroad. You’ll find people who like the same things you do everywhere.
On the other hand, don’t feel like you must always do things in a group. Yourself is enough. The struggle of finding people whose schedules, budgets, and interests align will eat up your time abroad and leave you feeling like you’re missing out. Just go!
FOMO is not often talked about when preparing to study abroad. Often, it’s packaged up into culture shock. But, FOMO is distinct in that it can come from both the fear of missing out at home and abroad.