The first weeks of studying and living abroad can be both overwhelming and painful for every new international student. Yes, it can be exciting, but sometimes it is only when you finally set foot in a new country that you understand the challenges of leaving your home, family and friends for the fulfilment of your dreams.
There will certainly be roadblocks in your way, but with these tips in mind, your learning experience in abroad can be one of the most rewarding journeys of your life.
Learn about the culture and language
It is crucial that you research about your destination beforehand – not just its history, wildlife or geography, but also its people, culture and language as a whole. You can prepare for your study abroad program by reading books and travel guides relative to the city or state where you will be studying. If you feel that language will be your biggest barrier, don’t be discouraged. Take English classes in advance and investigate English language support options at your new institution (like conversation classes) to make the transition process less daunting.
Step out of your comfort zone
Breaking out of your comfort zone is probably one of the first big steps in helping you get the most out of your learning experience. It's not easy to make the transition when starting a new course in an entirely unfamiliar environment. Good starting points can be trying the country’s cuisine, visiting local tourist attractions or just having a chat with your neighbours.
Homesickness is part of living abroad and it will hit you no matter how you hard you try. The trick is to not let it overpower you. Just be patient and remember that everything will improve in time.
If you are ever feeling like you are not coping with the transition, there is always help. You can talk to your institution’s student support services, or speak to your IDP counsellor.
Meet new people
Although this is easier said than done, it is not impossible. You may want to start by befriending at least a couple of students with whom you share a common background. You can join international student organisations in your institution. Alternatively, you can participate in social events outside the campus, join a club, or get involved with volunteer work to build friendships outside your circle.
Initiate a conversation
While you may be tempted to stick with people from your native country, try communicating in English as often as you can, whether it's with local students or international students from different backgrounds.
This will not only improve your English communication skills but can even develop your confidence and interpersonal skills.
Embrace the changes
More often than not, it is only when you accept that things are simply different from what you are used to that you will be able to fully integrate yourself into your new environment. A great motto for anyone living in a new culture is "It's not better or worse, it's just different." Try to keep a positive attitude, and be understanding, respectful and patient.
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