Studying abroad can lead us to experience different cultures and languages, interact with people of various ethnicities, taste delicious and exotic food and overall can be termed as an adventure. However, even the best things in life come with their share of falls as well. No matter where we decide to study, if the institution is even a little far away from home, there’s no denying that one will have to leave their loved ones behind.
Adding this issue to the big stress of managing every little detail on our own, we’re left with an acute sense of study abroad homesickness where one begins to not only miss the people they love but also the familiar sights of their home town. Nevertheless, homesickness does not get any significance in the initial days of moving and settling abroad. Rather we are filled with excitement in the first few weeks of simply travelling to a new place and exploring different cultures.
Everything and every place is new and undiscovered, all the strangers around us are friends we have yet to make and the language and culture is a mystery waiting to be resolved. But underneath that excitement is a sense of slight nervousness as well. How do we go about making new friends? Learning about the food and history of the place? Becoming familiar with our surroundings? Which areas to explore and which to avoid? All in all, how do we deal with the range of emotions flowing through our first few weeks of studying abroad???
The answer isn’t completely simple nor is there a one-stop solution for it. However, there are several things one can do altogether to deal with their study abroad anxiety, so you settle down properly, feel somewhat relaxed and at home.
GET IN TOUCH WITH A LOCAL
If you have applied to a university abroad personally, the administration will itself introduce you to a native student who will be able to help you settle down or the agency that helped you apply abroad can arrange for a local to not only pick you up from the airport but also educate you a bit about your host country during your first week abroad.
You can also ask your family and friends if they know someone living in the country you are moving to. Irrespective of the fact that the person you connect with will be a stranger, it is less daunting travelling to a new place knowing there is at-least one person you can talk to or seek help from if any issues or problems arise.
HAVE LOCAL CURRENCY AT HAND
In today’s day and age, credit cards are used around the world and we are familiar with where the ATMs are located wherever we live. However, when we shift abroad, we might need the local currency in an emergency and not be aware of the nearest ATM; the shops we visit might not accept credit cards; you might even need cash to travel by taxis before getting acquainted with a cheaper public mode of travel.
Hence, it’s always a safer bet to have your money exchanged before you begin travelling and not even at the new country’s airport after you land since exchange centres at the airports charge exceptionally high rates.
GET ADAPTED TO THE LOCAL TIME ZONE
Adjusting to a different time zone is another difficult part of shifting abroad. A person can feel mentally and physically drained when they shift to different time zones. When it’s night time in a new place and you are wide awake, you’re bound to feel exhausted by the time it’s morning.
But this is only temporary, and if only one powers through it for a few days, within a week you’ll be able to feel normal again. All you have to do is keep yourself occupied until seven or eight p.m. and your inner clock will automatically adjust.
For many introverts out there, we apologies for even suggesting this. Even if interacting with strangers can be a scary experience in new surroundings, it is way better than sitting alone in your room and missing your old friends.
So, it’s time to get off your bed, freshen up, go out, explore your new university grounds or the places near the campus, interact with people there and that is all it takes to make friends. Seriously – that’s all. In the end, it’s all about keeping a positive attitude that helps in curbing your study abroad homesickness with time.
Settling down requires us to finally come to terms that we have moved away from our home and thus we need to unpack our stuff which also helps us to remain occupied and keep the lonely thoughts at bay. It might not take an entire week but once you have unpacked and settled down, you’ll also become aware of the things you need to buy for the duration of your stay abroad which brings us to another very important tip.
GO OUT SHOPPING
Note down all the required items you need to buy, grab a friend and go out to do some much-needed shopping. Not only is it a great therapy for some people with study abroad anxiety, it’s also another way to spend time you would otherwise only use to sulk around in your room.
PEN YOUR EXPERIENCE
Start a blog or maybe invest in some travel journal to write all the details down- the good and even the bad ones, as you’re settling abroad. Writing is such a stress-releasing experience and penning down your problems might even make them appear less important to you.
For all it matters, if nothing else, jotting your thoughts down will also be an amazing souvenir for the upcoming years, when you reflect on this outstanding overseas experience and look at all how it helped you grow.
Your first few weeks of studying abroad usually set the tone for the first semester. Be proud of your choices and decisions of making such a brave step and relish all the ups and downs that come with this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Whatever escapades might come, we have to start somewhere someday. Your first week abroad might be loaded with unexpected challenges and some difficult moments, however nothing is permanent and your feelings of nervousness will soon pass.