If you’re lucky enough to be studying abroad it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you first get there. Here’s some tips on how to stay sane and make the most of your time when you arrive in your host country… by Ella Hillyard
After all the waiting and excitedly reading travel guides, you’ve finally arrived in your host country. Everything seems so new and it can feel crazy being surrounded by a new culture that it almost seems unreal. All that planning was the easy part, your real journey is just about to begin. There’s no need to worry though, here are some tips to help make your year abroad flow smoothly.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there
If you really want to experience the local culture and practice your language skills, finding local friends is the best way to do this, however, it’s more easily said than done. One of the biggest misconceptions I had about the Year Abroad was how easy it would be to integrate into the local community. When I arrived at my host university, I found that all the local students already had their friendship groups established and the language barrier meant that I felt embarrassed to talk to them. This meant that I spent a lot of my time in the first term with other English-speaking Erasmus students. But this doesn’t mean it is impossible. In term 2 I learnt that although it takes persistence, you can integrate easily into local life. Leave your self-doubt in England and put yourself out there. I found that going to gym classes and language exchanges helped me meet local people who were willing to take me under their wing. Don’t be afraid to make the first move and ask people out for a drink, most people will jump at the opportunity to get to know you.
Get out of your comfort zone
Living in a new country where the way of life is different can naturally make you miss your home comforts. While it is really easy to watch repeats of Grand Designs on Netflix while drinking the PG tips that you brought with you from home, don’t forget that the whole point of your Year Abroad is to experience something new. Every week try and do something you wouldn’t normally do at home. This can be anything from travelling to a nearby city, celebrating a local holiday, visiting a new museum or even tasting a local delicacy. Check out the tourist information for the region you’re staying in as they usually give a great explanation of local customs, as well as a calendar for significant events going on. Even if the idea of leaving your comfort zone scares you try and force yourself to explore, since 9 times out of 10 you won’t regret it and it will give you amazing memories to look back on once your time abroad is over.
Take time for you
No one can deny all the amazing opportunities that going abroad gives you. It is a great chance to do something completely different and surround yourself with new people, a new culture and sometimes even a new language. However, so many changes can lead to stress and feeling anxious and homesick – especially if you’re alone and far away from your usual support network of friends and family. Try to think before you go away about who you can talk to when you feel overwhelmed and try and make sure you have a support network in place. Talking to someone can really help unburden yourself and help you get perspective on your issues as well as receiving some compassion. Warwick Mental Health & Wellbeing have lots of information on how to manage your wellbeing. Don’t forget – just because you’re not physically present at Warwick, it doesn’t mean you can’t access the services. They’re there to help you so make good use of them when you need it, before your problems become too much.
Most importantly though, make the most of it. Your year abroad will be challenging and a lot of things won’t go as planned but don’t let this ruin your experience. It’s an opportunity you might not get again, and one that not everyone gets to experience. Make time to phone home and make time to enjoy yourself too! Follow these instructions and let fate decide the rest!
This is a three part series by Ella Hillyard on studying abroad. Read parts one and three.
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Cover Image: travel-destination-europe-european-2313444 / kirkandmimi / CC0 1.0
Image 1: people-women-talking-laugh-happy-2567915 / StockSnap / CC0 1.0
Image 2: street-photography-woman-urban-road-2563725 / MichaelGaida / CC0 1.0