Before studying abroad, I have never left the U.S., let alone the East Coast. I knew packing my bag to travel halfway across the world for four months was going to be a challenge. Yet, I did not know that on the first day of my adventure my flight would be canceled, I would arrive late, and I would need to figure out how to get to my hotel in Madrid independently, with the added obstacle of the taxis in Madrid being on strike. Needless to say, the first two days of my study abroad experience were challenging.
Although my first days in Spain did not go as planned, I knew that I had to do my best to adjust to this new country. Here are my tips on going from lost to a local:
1. Go with the flow
When traveling, things change unexpectedly- one moment you are prepared to board your flight, the next it is canceled. When things like this happen, it is important to just remain calm and see what happens next. If you are lucky (like I was) the airline will be able to simply book you on a new flight. Just be patient and go with the flow.
2. Keep an open mind
Being in a new country means that there may be customs you are unfamiliar with. It’s important to remember that you are living in this new place, so embrace the culture. Try new foods, do different things, and meet different people! You won’t know what you like until you try it. Study abroad isn’t all about traveling around (although part of it is), but it is also about immersing yourself in a new culture.
3. Confidence is key
Rome was not built in a day, and you will not feel like a local in one either. Your first days in a new country can be exhilarating, but also scary. It is an unfamiliar place, with unusual customs. Although you might not feel at ease, confidence is key. The saying is true- “fake it till you make it.” And trust me, you’ll make it.
4. Find your spot
Whether it be at the library at your university, a nearby park, or friendly café, find a place in the city to get out of your room and really embrace your new lifestyle. This will help you feel more like a local, and introduce you to new places, people and foods.
5. Explore, explore, explore
You’re not going to feel like a local until you know the city, and the best way to do that is explore! Wander around the streets and find new restaurants and places to go. Bring your friends with you and make it an adventure!
Studying abroad is not always easy, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s supposed to empower you to become more independent and more confident. Although my study abroad journey has only just begun, every day I feel more at ease and more confident in my host city.
Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.