For some reason, many students all over the world have chosen to spend this semester abroad in a foreign country. This semester will be filled with embarrassing moments, proud moments, and many instances where we regret not spending more time learning that foreign language in high school. We have left our home on a four month adventure that will have us wincing at the price of an international cell phone plan, and dropping our jaw at the beauty of the mountains on the other side of the world.
Why leave, though? Home is nice. We all have our favorite foods and our favorite types of movies or music, our favorite places to sit in the classroom, and our best friends who we enjoy seeing from day to day. Moving away from your family to college is hard enough. What is it that pushes students to leave the college or university where they’ve finally started to get the hang of things, to go and start something new and difficult all over again?
Is it the same thing that pushes us to go to college across the country from where we grew up? Is it simply the thing that prompted us to take a new route to Business Calculus class on a normal Thursday afternoon, just for fun? Maybe, but choosing to live in a different country where most everything is completely different can’t just be “for fun.” Right? Do we feel like we have to study abroad because everybody else at our University is doing it? Or because our parents are telling us we should? Do we like to challenge ourselves, and studying abroad has been something we’ve wanted to challenge ourselves with for a while? Have we caught the travel bug, and think that studying abroad is going to be like a semester long European vacation?
Who knows…everybody is probably studying abroad for a number of these different reasons, hopefully based on their own decisions and not those of somebody else. One thing is certain though, we’ve made the decision and we are no longer back at our home universities getting used to our new schedules and picking our new route to Business Calculus. We’re here. We’re stuck. And we like that – or we don’t. We are so happy to be studying abroad at our new university! Or maybe we haven’t made that many friends and are honestly having a hard time finding a rhythm. Maybe we flat out miss just home, miss our friends, miss our room, miss being comfortable and miss understanding the language we hear over the intercom at the grocery store. Everybody’s day is filled with a different set of challenges and rewards that are setting the tone for their study abroad experience.
So what do we do now that we are stuck here? Whether it is easy (or hard) for you isn’t going to change anything. I’ve come up with a few ideas for what we can do to make the best out of our exchange – regardless of how it’s going for us right now.
Be excited about the new things
It’s easy to write things off as “annoying” or “stupid” because they are new to us and probably make us uncomfortable most of the time. Try to get excited about these things and find a certain fascination that people around world can have the same goals, and seem to go about achieving them in such a multitude of different ways. Learning new things is the best thing you can do for yourself – PROOF.
Get the &%*$ out of your room
Fresh air is nice, I promise. Don’t blame the weather for your excuse for staying inside to watch Netflix. Get outside and walk around your new neighborhood or go walk up that hill you take the bus past on your way to class every day.
Take good care of your body
A tip from somebody who has failed to do this many times while abroad in the past, taking good care of your physical health is one of the most important things you can do to keep your attitude up. Getting sick (whether its just a little cold from the wind or a bladder infection from the treacherous Nile River) can throw a serious hitch in your life for days or even weeks. Get enough sleep and eat your veggies, children.
Keep tabs on your mental health
Doing little things like reminding yourself how fortunate you are to be studying in another country and still getting valid school credit can do wonders for your attitude. If you’re having a hard time where you are, before you go to bed, grab some scratch paper and jot down two new things you learned that day or two things that you’re thankful that living in [city, country] has taught you. Here are some other tricks, and make sure to stay away from the energy vampires!
I can’t speak for everyone, but sometimes my homemade pasta just really isn’t doin’ the trick. It’s important to treat yo self every once in a while. It can be any number of things – A dinner out, a fun night at the club, a new book in English that will cost way too much because you live in Madagascar, a six pack of really nice German beer, a weekend trip on the train to visit your nearby friend, or a nice glossy map of your new city to put up on the wall of your bland white room. Here’s a video with some tips on how to find the right thing for you. Three words. TREAT. YO. SELF.
Thanks for reading! Tchuss!
‘When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.’ – Clifton Fadiman