As a huge study abroad advocate, I am constantly talking to students about how I can help them get started on the path to an amazing study abroad adventure. One concern that I find most common among prospective students is their fear of the language barrier.
I want it to be super clear that anyone who is feeling this way, you are not alone, I myself was terrified of studying abroad in Germany this past summer when the only German words I knew were, “good morning,” “please,” “thank you,” and, “Kindergarten.” Most of those were a great start, but other than that, I was completely helpless when it came to speaking and understanding German.
Here are some helpful tips about how to overcome this fear and have the best study abroad experience possible.
Take a deep breath
Deep breathing is your friend. Coming from a country where you are fluent in the national language, you don’t have to think about asking for simple things at the grocery store or ordering at a restaurant. It’s easy to become frazzled; just remember to take a few deep breaths if you feel overwhelmed, everything will be okay.
It’s the little things
Be proud of the small victories. Even simple things like doing a grocery store transaction completely in your host countries language. I know it doesn't seem like much but it really is. I studied in Berlin for a month and it took me until my very last night to be able to order my food at a restaurant without using any English. Honestly it was one of the proudest moments in my time abroad
You got this
Have patience with yourself. I cannot stress this one enough, it’s difficult going from being exemplary in a language to remedial. So really don't beat yourself up when you stumble on pronunciation or with understanding what other people are saying. Think about it like this: as a child, you didn't just get up and start running, you had to learn to walk first.
This is going to be a frustrating process, but I promise in the end you’ll walk out as a more confident person, I know I did!
Jazmine B. is a CEA Alumni. She studied abroad in Berlin the summer of 2016 and is currently a senior at American International College.