18 things you probably missed about America while studying abroad

I love Europe with all my heart — I really do. I usually feel more at peace amongst Europe’s cobblestoned streets and aged storefronts than I do my own backyard. And yet, as much as I hate to admit it, I got a bit homesick while studying abroad.

Yeah, yeah, yeah… it’s natural to miss your family, your home-friends and those loveable four-legged fur-balls. I know. But that’s not what I’m talking about here.

Don’t get me wrong, I missed my friends and family like crazy while I was abroad. But I’m talking about a much deeper meaning of the word “homesick.” I’m talking about that foreign feeling. The one where even the most mundane and ordinary tasks seem…different. Harder. Scarier. A feeling that made me take a step back and realize how much I actually did love America. It made me appreciate my home and the life as a young American girl.

So here ya go, world: the 18 things I missed (and I’m sure you did too) about the U.S. while studying abroad.

1. Free Water

In most places, wine costs less than water. Amazing, I know. But it’s not always as fun as it seems. Trust me.

2. Free public restrooms…

Because the last thing you want to do when you’re about to piss your pants is fumble around for a damn COIN to use the facilities.

3. Understanding the language/street signs/menus, etc.

Is this shampoo or conditioner? Body soap or body lotion? Did I just order duck intestines? I don't know.

Being able to read labels, street signs, menus, and maps is so under-rated.

On a more serious note, this experience was incredibly eye-opening for me. Not being able to understand the language made me realize how challenging an everyday trip to the grocery or convenience store can be for refugees, foreigners, etc. It gave me an immense amount of empathy and respect for foreigners, one that I’ll continue to carry with me forever. (Ahem, yes I’m lookin’ at you, Donald.)

4. Stores being open at night/at normal hours?

Listen, Spain, I’m all for your siesta idea . But your business model is confusing and your hours are really inconvenient for the majority of customers. But I forgive you because naps rock.

5. Real working dryers

Have you ever seen those lovely, picturesque laundry lines with cute lil’ clothes hanging on them to dry? You know, like this:

Adorable, isn’t it? Well, it begins to lose its charm when you realize dryers are apparently some sort of rare breed/luxury item in some parts of Europe.

It’s one thing if your family cannot afford such a machine. And for that I completely understand and feel terrible for sounding like such a pretentious little b****. But for the rest of Europe, who clearly has the financial stability to own a dryer but simply doesn’t, all I ask you is…why?

6. Not having to mentally count/adjust the time in your head:

I’m honestly still confused why Americans don’t use the 24 hour clock system like the rest of the world? It actually makes much more sense in my opinion…

But anyway, I always seemed to struggle when my train ticket said something like 18:30. When is that? Like 6:30? 7:30? I don’t know, man. Help a girl out. I suck at math and don’t want to figure that out right now. #JournalismMajor

7. Understanding measurements

So you’re lost and you ask a local for directions and they say, “Walk straight for about 2 kilometers and then it will be on your left” or some tour guide says, “the fountain uses about 12,000 liters of water a day” or something like that.

It would be nice to know what the heck they’re talking about, ya know? Like have some context? If it were America, I’d know how many miles I’d have to go before I probably got lost again and how much water that fountain is wasting….but instead I am left more confused than I was in the first place. Yay numbers!

8. Splitting checks

Europe is so ahead of the times with so many things… but if you dare to ask to split a check — oh my gosh — they look at you like you’ve just asked them to conduct brain surgery. Yeah, sure, I know it’s annoying and a bit more work, but if Americans — notoriously lazy Americans — can figure out how to split checks, then my golly gosh, Europe, you can too. Also shoutout to Venmo, otherwise I really don’t know how we would have worked out all the finances.

9. Watching whatever you want on YouTube without being discriminated against because of your location…

YouTube works abroad, sure. But I can’t tell you how many times I tried to look up a video and the “This video is unavailable in your country” message of doom popped up and prevented me from showing my friends how wonderfully beautiful Harry Styles is in this one particular video…

10. Ice ice baby

Picture this: it’s a hot summer’s day and you just roamed around the beautiful, cobblestone streets of Florence for gosh knows how long. You plop yourself down for a nice, cold, refreshing drink to give your aching feet a break. **Cue the ice cold drink** Right?

Well my friends, ice basically CEASES TO EXIST in Europe, and when you do muster up the courage to ask them for ice (because if you don’t specifically ask for it, you’re 100% not getting it) they give you two little, itty bitty cubes. Or worse…they’ll ask you if you’re hurt or if you need a bucket/band-aid. SOS.

11. Garbage disposals

They rock. But for some reason I didn’t seem to find any abroad. Oddly enough, this one really helped me gain some gratitude. It was so nice to come home and not have to worry about food particles clogging my sink. First world problems, for sure. But hey, I missed it nonetheless.

12. Free bread

When going to a sit-down restaurant in the States, a free basket of bread is almost always a guarantee. Good ‘ol Olive Garden even gives you UNLIMITED delicious (sometimes free) bread sticks. In Europe, however, things are a little different. You only get bread if you ask for it — and 99% of the time you have to pay for it too. Meh.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of bread….

13. Bread plates

Delicious, warm bread is plopped right down in front of you. Mmmmm. You can’t wait to dive right in and attack it. You’re going to have like, 6 pieces, obviously.

But wait, hold on, where’s the little bread plates? Nowhere in sight? What the hell am I supposed to eat my bread on — the beautiful, white table cloth?

14. Not having to worry about converters

Why in the WORLD are there such things as different converters? I know there’s probably some scientific, rational answer to that question. But can I just vent for a second?

In the US, I don’t even have to think about something as small and “insignificant” as converters. I’m going to Chicago tomorrow from LA; my mind is not thinking, “Oh gosh, does Chicago need a different converter? Can I bring my hair straightener without worrying it’ll blow a fuse?” Nope. You just fricken go. But in Europe….”Oh, I’m in Italy but going to Slovenia — do they have different plugs there?! Which kind do I need? What if I don’t have it? Where can I get one? How much will it cost?”

WHY SHOULD I HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT THESE THINGS?! They’re different countries, okay I get it. But in general, I’m not sure why they can’t all be the same? Am I being ignorant, idk?

15. TV shows:

Ok so the Oscars were on while I was abroad, and it was a complete and utter mess. Long story short, this entire scenario made me realize how hard it is to keep up with TV shows, local news, national events, award shows, etc. while you’re abroad.

And if you’re curious about the Oscars fiasco:

My friends and I probably spent a SOLID twenty minutes trying to find the correct channel to watch the Oscars on while we were in Italy. Once we found it…are you ready for this….it was completely dubbed over in Italian. Couldn’t hear or understand a thing. Oh well.

16. Peanut butter (or any type of nut butter really):

Okay so they have Nutella… everywhere. And I love it. But sometimes you just want a good old fashion pb&j, ya feel me? Or sometimes you’re just super lazy and want a little snack so you stick a spoon down that bad boy and eat a hunk of pb straight from the jar… or is that just me?

Okay anyway, why is pb so hard to find abroad? Like in America you just walk into any grocery store and WHAM THERE’S BASICALLY A WHOLE AISLE devoted to the creamy (or crunchy depending on you’re preference) spread. Skippy, Jiff, Smuckers, Peter Pan, store brand, that healthy kind, you name it, they’ve got it…but in Europe, at least most of the places I’ve been to, if you find even ONE kind/brand you celebrate and buy seven jars because you don’t know when you’ll have another victory like this again.

Also pro tip: You cannot bring peanut butter in your carry-on luggage. I repeat, you cannot bring peanut butter in your carry-on luggage. And yes, I do know this from personal experience :)

17. Drive throughs

Perhaps this is why we have an obesity problem in the States, but sometimes there’s nothing better than staying in your pjs, hopping in your car, and rollin’ right up to that drive-through; getting whatcha need all from the comfort of your own car without really having to move or interact with the rest of the world. It truly is a wonder.

18. Just being home

There’s such a sweet satisfaction of sleeping in your own bed after a long journey away — don’tcha think? There’s nothing quite like it.

Because let’s face it: there really is no place like home.

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