The Other Side of Study Abroad

My dad always used to say, “don’t compare how you feel on the inside to how people look like they feel on the outside.” I don’t think this advice really took hold in me until my teenage years. We hit high school and we suddenly aren’t the carefree kids we once were. We are concerned about what others think of our hair, our clothes, our actions and so much more. When I feel like I’m falling apart on the inside, and I see all these people who look like they are balancing it all fine, it just makes me fall apart more. And that is when I need my dad’s advice most.

I wanted to write a post on this before I left for France, but in the whirlwind of getting ready and leaving, I never had time. But then I got to France and realized that it still applies. So, here it goes. My take on social media, expectations, and the like, but from a study abroad standpoint.

I love Instagram. I’m just putting that out there. It’s such a fun way to see what is going on in other’s lives, and to post cute, artsy pictures of my life. But I think there is a danger to Instagram, and that’s the reason I deleted the app for most of my sophomore year. It’s too easy to look at someone’s life on Insta, and think that they have it so easy and perfect, with no problems. Or to look at the pictures someone is posting and be jealous of their life. I really felt like it was pulling me away from a Godly perspective of other people and my own life.

This has happened just in my first week in France, in regards to others, and I’m sure in regards to my own posts. If you follow me on Insta, or are friends with me on Facebook, you’ve probably seen all my pictures. And I’m sure there are some out there who saw them and were jealous (especially of my lavender macaroon. I know it). But what my Facebook and Instagram didn’t portray were the nights that I fell apart, so homesick and upset that I bawled. It didn’t show the days where I wandered around the city by myself, lonely for those I love across the ocean. It didn’t show the pain of adapting to a new situation.

That isn’t to say that I don’t absolutely love Aix and being here. I DO. It’s becoming my home, and it’s a beautiful place. That also isn’t to disregard how blessed I am to be able to study abroad. But there is another side of study abroad, and life off of social media. And that’s what we lose when we look at the pictures without taking into account that they were taken by a person. A person with problems, pains, and struggles. Don’t remove that from the pictures.

I hope that those at Grove City, and wherever you are, who aren’t in Europe aren’t thinking that my whole semester is just macaroons and Instagram posts. There is a fair bit of that :). But there are pains and sorrows and hurts, just like anywhere else. I’m a person, far, far from home.

I am thankful for this bittersweet, very real experience this past week. God is so faithful, and He has brought sweet sisters in Christ into my life, even here in the south of France. He never fails to go ahead of me and make a way. I’m so thankful and I praise Him for never leaving me, and allowing me to desperately cling to Him as I go about my life here. He is teaching me so much, through the joy and pain.

All in all, study abroad rocks. But don’t let people tell you it’s all rainbows and butterflies. It’s real life, sometimes things suck, but God is faithful to bring you through all the pain, to the joy of being with Him, no matter what country, which companions, and everything else.

These are my Saturday thoughts 🙂

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