What The First Few Weeks Abroad Are Actually Like
Making your new city feel like home through the good and the bad.
You’re starting a new semester in a new country with new friends, new classes, new foods, and new activities. All that new is bound to be exciting and everything that you hoped studying abroad would be! But what they don’t tell you is that despite the excitement of your new life abroad, there are going to be times when you miss home and times where you just want to stay in your room and watch Netflix. And that’s ok. Take a look at what your first few weeks of study abroad REALLY look like.
Take the first few days and weeks of living in your foreign city to just explore. Whether you get the must-see tourist attractions out of the way or find the perfect café in which to do homework, it is so worth it. Some of my now-favorite places are ones that I just happened upon while I was walking around. You are probably going to get lost the first several times, but whip out an offline map, find your way back, and stumble across some cute shops while you’re at it.
Studying in a foreign country means being surrounded by a foreign language. Even in English-speaking countries you’re bound to find phrases and dialects that you just really don’t understand and leave you frustrated. Turn that discouragement into motivation to start learning the local language! This will not only make your life easier, but the locals will appreciate your attempt to speak their language.
Cafés on every corner
Europe is doing it right when it comes to corner cafés. It seems that everywhere I look in Barcelona there is a coffee shop, a bakery, or an ice cream store. You are going to want to a buy all of the homemade pastries and local cuisine your first few weeks. While you shouldn’t buy up every croissant in your city during your first weeks, don’t forget to treat yourself to that chocolate croissant and café con leche every once and awhile! You’re probably walking a lot more than in the U.S. and do calories really even count if they are in the metric system? I think not.
Once all the new and exciting has worn off, you are going to miss home. You are going to miss being able to walk around your old university and know where you’re going. You are going to miss English. You are going to miss your friends, family, and pets a whole bunch. But you need to remember that you have the once in a lifetime opportunity to study in a foreign country and learn a completely different culture. Your culture will still be there when you return in four months so take this time abroad to enjoy all the food, sights, shopping, and people that your host country has to offer – choose to focus on these rather than on your old life back home. That being said, no one will judge you for taking time to yourself to watch Netflix, grab a cheeseburger and a pumpkin spice latte, Skype your parents, or just speak English with your friends.
Sleep is for Siesta
During your first few weeks abroad, you are going to want to stay up late and hit some local bars and clubs with your new friends. DO IT! It’s a fun way to see the city and to meet new people! The best part about Europe is that everyday from about 1pm-5pm stores close so that residents can eat lunch with their families and “tomar una siesta” which basically just means we take a nap. So go dance the night away because thanks to your new bff siesta, you can catch up on your Z’s the next afternoon!
Journal, Journal, Journal
Finally, your first few weeks are going to go by so fast and be filled with memories. You are going to want to take as many photos and write down as many things as you can – and you should. While it may become harder to jot down your feelings and experiences as you start your classes, make it a priority to find a safe place and record those memories. You will absolutely not regret it when you look back and smile at your highs and shake your head at your lows. You only study abroad once, so make sure you document every gelato trip, every metro mishap, and every foreign fumble in that beautiful new city you get to call home.