Carson Cook is a student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and is a current ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA in Brussels, Belgium.
If you’re an introvert like myself, you already know that being an introvert is not the same thing as being shy, that being an introvert and a people person are not mutually exclusive, and that introverts can enjoy trying new things and seeing new places as much as anybody. But for introverts, the need to occasionally withdraw from the world and recharge can make the already stressful process of moving to a new country particularly difficult. Here are some tips I’ve cultivated for making the most out of a study abroad experience:
#1 Learn Names
During the first week of my program, I made it a point to learn the names of everyone I met. Whether that meant repeating their name at every opportunity (Where did you say you were from, Daniel?) or connecting the name to something I’d remember (Phoebe, like from Friends) or whatever trick works for you. It’s easier to start a conversation with someone if you remember something from the last time you talked.
#2 Practice the Language
If you’re studying abroad in a country that speaks a language other than your native tongue, don’t let a language barrier stop you from getting out and meeting new people. Before you leave, use an app to quiz yourself or listen to podcasts from your host country. Remember everybody makes mistakes sometimes, the important thing it to have confidence.
#3 Make Your Space Feel Like Home
Whether you live in a homestay, apartment, or dorm, find a way to make the space your own. Hang up photos or bring a favorite blanket from home. The more comfortable you feel in your own space, the faster you will recharge and the better you will feel . . .
# 4 Get Out
Don’t spend all your time in your space. In fact, only spend time there when you need to. Even if you just want to do homework, read, or browse the internet, do so on campus or at a coffee shop. You’ll run into people and make friends this way. If you’re feeling hesitant about going out, use the internet to find cool restaurants, shops, and areas to check out. Definitely read reviews to know what to expect ahead of time.
#5 Say Yes to Things That Scare You
When I’m torn by indecision to try something new or not, I remind myself that I’ve always regretted things I didn’t do more than anything I did. When you return home, you want to be full of stories of places you saw and new things you tried, not stories of the nights you spent home alone. So remind yourself to make the most out of the amazing opportunity that is studying abroad.