University of Iowa

Demystifying study abroad: FOMO

May 18th, 2019

What do cultural adjustment, homesickness, and fear of missing out have in common? These are all concerns students face when deciding to study abroad. 

Fear of missing out (FOMO) often affects a student’s decision to study abroad. Even once you've decided to make the jump, you may feel simultaneously excited for the experience and worried about missing important moments with friends and family at home. For the first installment of our demystifying study abroad series, we asked our Spring 2019 correspondents what they thought they would miss most about home, and how their perspective on this changed since spending a semester in their host country.  

Maggie Fischer
Writing from: Freiburg, Germany

Personally, FOMO was definitely something I was worried about before my study abroad experience. Since I decided to study abroad for a year, I feared not physically being in Iowa would mean that I would miss out on deepening my friendships and getting more involved on campus. I also feared losing a valuable place I had carved out for myself at Iowa. What I've found is that studying abroad does not mean that you will lose all of the groundwork and friendships you've made at home, but instead you just put them on pause for a while.

Yes, you will miss events, parties, football games, etc., but those things will still be waiting for you when you get home. The experiences you will have abroad are going to be some of the best and most eye-opening things you might do in your college career, and to miss that opportunity would mean you're missing out on something even greater. Long story short: Feelings of FOMO will come, and that's okay, but the experiences and people you will meet abroad will be just as great as cheering for the Hawks on game day!

"Feelings of FOMO will come, and that's okay, but the experiences and people you will meet abroad will be just as great as cheering for the Hawks on game day!"

Zane Johnson
Writing from: Montevideo, Uruguay

For me, FOMO always exists, and I have already dealt with it in the past by spending a gap year abroad. The trick is to look at it from another perspective. Think about all the people, places, and experiences you will miss out on in your host country. I learned to think about it this way my first time abroad and this experience has only strengthened it. There is a lot more to the world than the United States and Western culture as a whole, something that we as Americans typically forget.

"Think about all the people, places, and experiences you will miss out on in your host country."

Greta Larget
Writing from: Hobart, Australia

While I was choosing when to study abroad, I knew that I would miss some important milestones back home—my brother's high school graduation, a two-week job as a camp counselor and my second season of sanctioned frisbee tournaments—just like I knew it would require adjusting some of my classes when I returned because I would have to put off some spring-only classes for a year. I knew all of this before I left, and yet I never had a fear of missing out on these events. Instead, I simply thought of these events as an alternate life that I would be replacing with an amazing experience that I could not possibly anticipate at the time of planning and one that would give me a global understanding of my place in the world. I know it sounds cliché, but since coming to Australia I really feel like I have a greater appreciation for the world. Maybe getting out of my comfort zone was enough of a shift for me to see life in a new way, but I genuinely feel like I'm finally starting to learn things and talk about things in a way that I never would have thought to back home. I don't know how to describe it, but I think it might just be one of those things that you really have to experience to understand.

"I genuinely feel like I'm finally starting to learn things and talk about things in a way that I never would have thought to back home."

Sid Peterson
Writing from: Prague, Czech Republic

At the end of the day, I know the people who truly matter will still be at home when I return. This mindset has kept me sane and without fear of missing out. Of course, being away from home means that you will miss out on some moments; however, it is important to focus on yourself in the small amount time that you have the opportunity to live overseas.

I definitely knew I would miss seeing familiar faces on the regular, but luckily, when you’re abroad complete strangers can suddenly become your close friends in a very short amount of time.

"When you’re abroad complete strangers can suddenly become your close friends in a very short amount of time."

Interested in going abroad? Learn more about first steps

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