Featured Image

Have a Better Study Abroad Experience When You Ignore This...

If you're afraid to study abroad in a certain country because of a language barrier, read this student's story. Some things shouldn't stop your plans...

If you’re afraid to study abroad in a certain country because of a language barrier, read this student’s story. Some things shouldn’t stop your plans…

For the past few months, my impending study abroad experience was a favored topic of discussion. When someone says they’re going abroad for a semester, you wonder where. Popular destinations such as Spain, Italy, and Australia most likely come to mind. Not this time. Not for me. Not even close—I went to Serbia.

The look on people’s faces when I told them where I’m studying abroad isn’t easy to describe. Friends and family looked at me like I had two heads. Some common responses included: “What? Serbia? Is that near Russia? Isn’t it freezing? Is it safe?” I quickly provided a history and geography lesson. And I reassured them that I would indeed be safe during my stay in the capital city of Belgrade.

Related: 5 Unique Locations to Study Abroad

This was always followed by, “What language do they speak? Can you speak the language?” In Serbia they speak…well, Serbian. No, I cannot speak Serbian. Since I’ve been here, I’ve learned (and have been told numerous times) that it is one of the most difficult languages to learn. Neither I nor any of the students I came here with speak Serbian. But this barrier didn’t discourage me. In fact, it almost made the trip more alluring. I wanted a unique study abroad experience in a capital city rich with history. Where better to be than Belgrade?

Mark Twain Quote

Language barriers often serve as a deterrent for study abroad. It prevents many people from traveling to places where they otherwise would love to visit. That’s no reason not to travel somewhere! At first, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to communicate with the people in Serbia. Though I’ve only been here for a few weeks, it’s already clear this isn’t the case. Many locals speak English, which is incredibly helpful. Moving away from that, it still isn’t difficult to thrive in a city in which you don’t speak the language. Even if you don’t speak the county’s official language, body language can often get the point across. Locals want you to enjoy their city and would love for you to speak highly of it. Because of this, they’re always willing to help out.

Related: Study Abroad Worries—and What You Can Do About Them

Though it’s impossible to pick up a new language in a few days, it’s helpful to learn some common phrases before heading out on a new adventure. Learning to say “hello” is crucial. When you walk into a restaurant or store or are meeting someone new, you don’t want to be perceived as rude. Of course, learning how to say “thank you” is also necessary. In addition, it’s important to be able to ask for the check at a restaurant. Knowing how to ask where the restroom will more than likely come in handy too. Finally, being able to ask how long something is or how far away it is will prove to be important. Of course, there are plenty of other phrases that will be helpful; these are just the most basic.

Belgrade is a city that will always have a place in my heart. So far, the people here have been superb, the food has been delectable, and I know that my experience here will be one I never forget.

Images from Belgrade

Pictures from a day in Belgrade by Georgia Krendel

I hope that a language barrier won’t stop you from traveling to a unique city or country. I know it can be intimidating at first (trust me), but once that initial fear dissipates, you’ll be more than grateful that you chose to travel to a new place.

Learn more about studying abroad in our Student Life section.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Tags:
college study abroad foreign languages international experience international study language barriers semester abroad student life study abroad studying

About Georgia Krendel

Georgia Krendel is a freshman Political Science major at Clemson University. She is originally from Lynbrook, New York. She plays the trombone in Clemson’s marching band, pep band, and concert band. She played in her high school’s jazz band, pit orchestra, orchestra, and wind ensemble. In her free time she likes to snowboard, horseback ride, and travel. Georgia has been riding horses since she was seven years old and has been showing competitively since she was 12. She played softball through high school as well as volleyball for multiple travel teams.

 

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Khush

Khush

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress is a multi-maneuver platform that has been helping students in their college applications and scholarship hunt process. For me, CollegeXpress has been a boon. I've been able to find my dream university via CX, and I've also been able to apply to thousands of scholarships through it. All the thanks to CollegeXpress for doing such a great job for free. I express my sincere gratitude to you for doing such a wonderful job. I recommend CollegeXpress without any reservations.

Priscilla Yeboah

Priscilla Yeboah

High School Student

I was afraid and timid throughout my search for colleges, but I finally found the college that was fit for me and luckily I got accepted. One of the most influential things that helped me was the articles and advice on CollegeXpress. They've helped me a lot and benefited me as a senior to make the right choices in life. Thank you!

Ruth Aguilar

Ruth Aguilar

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me by providing me with many scholarship opportunities and information about universities I want to attend. What I love about CollgeXpress is how it provides a variety of information, and as the first child attending a university next year, it has been very essential and helpful. I’m so grateful for this because the information provided by CollegeXpress has also helped me see that there are so many college opportunities, and it always informs me by email. In other words, CollegeXpress has been like a guide for me as a future college student.

Tariq Adam Khatib

Tariq Adam Khatib

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress helped me a lot. I am a Tanzania boy who finished my high school studies in Tanzania. I never knew I could get an opportunity to get a scholarship to study abroad. I am happy that now I know how to find the school to study abroad through CollegeXpress.

Ana Sophia Garcia-Cubas Assemat

Ana Sophia Garcia-Cubas Assemat

$10,000 Scholarship Winner, 2020

CollegeXpress has been an instrumental resource for my scholarship search and has given me the opportunity to try my best so I can graduate from college debt-free.

College Matches