Have you just arrived in a new city for study abroad? All that hard work of filling out your application and Visa, buying plane tickets, and packing your suitcase has finally paid off. So, now what? If you’re like me, you may have found a sudden stillness and uneasiness since arriving in your new city. What you did at home in the United States may not fit into your new life abroad.
So, what do you do? I invite you to sit in this uneasiness. You may realize things about yourself that you never knew, and isn’t that one of the reasons for travel? Adjusting to a new city, culture, and home life is difficult, but did you really travel across the ocean to hang out with other Americans, speak English, and eat American food? Even though those things are comfortable, this is your opportunity to try something completely new. And your time is limited. You won’t grow by staying in your comfort zone, so embrace the uncertainty and see where it takes you.
Here are some ideas to help you stay grounded and open-minded during study abroad:
Keep a Journal
What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear that’s different from home? Write it down so you can remember it. Be aware of what’s happening around you—this is your experience! Take it in.
Grab another student, walk around your new city and get lost in the streets. Wandering around a new place is the best way to get a deeper understanding of where you are and where you’re going. As an added plus, as the weeks go by, your friends will be impressed with your geographic knowledge of this new city.
Keep in touch with family and friends
Even when we’re out there doing the adventurous thing—study abroad—we can still feel FOMO. I remember Skyping with my family for the first time after stepping off the plane and having really strong emotions. At first, I was sad and jealous because I felt like I was missing out. But after Skyping with them, I realized that nothing had changed, and I really wasn’t missing out on anything I hadn’t already done before. Your old routine will be there when you get home. You have the rest of your life to do what you’ve already done. Now is your chance to be the adventurous one. Jump in!
Set a goal for yourself
Your time abroad is finite; eventually you will be boarding a plane and going home. What do you want to do in the next 4 weeks? Who do you want to be here? What do you want to learn? It can be as simple as having the courage to start a conversation with a local at a bar or restaurant, or as ambitious as becoming fluent. Whatever it is, it’s your goal, and it’s your experience. Make it count.