Student life abroad can be both nerve-wracking and exciting. After all, you’ll be speaking a foreign language and exploring a new culture. You’ll see new sites, eat new foods and learn about different traditions.
But when none of the locals seem to understand a word you’re saying and all you crave is an American hamburger, try to remember why you’re studying abroad and take practical steps to adjust to life abroad.
Expect to experience culture shock when you study abroad. You’ll be encountering so much that is new and different, try not to get overwhelmed!
At first you’ll be excited. You’ve been preparing to study abroad for awhile and are anxious to visit the attractions and meet the people. In the beginning the differences between the US and the country where you are living will seem intriguing. After awhile, you’ll be irritated and frustrated.
You could feel homesick. You’ll learn to cope by making friends, discovering student life abroad and adapting to the country’s culture and traditions. If you live in the country long enough, eventually you could feel so comfortable that you won’t want to return home from abroad.
Skip some of the frustration by learning as much as you can about the student life and culture of the country where you’ll live abroad. You can’t eliminate all surprises – nor should you want to – but this will make adjusting easier and quicker.
Resist blaming an entire country or culture for a few inconveniences. Remember: If you wanted to do something simple, you wouldn’t have chosen to study abroad! Buses are late and computers malfunction in the US, too. Don’t overreact.
When you’re homesick it will be tempting to seek out other Americans and make only English-speaking friends. Speaking a foreign language can be tough when you’re still perfecting your vocabulary and accent. Practice with strangers and make friends with locals who are understanding and patient. This way you’ll learn more about the language and enlarge your social circle at the same time.
Don’t be shy. Talk to other students and get involved with student life abroad, either at the university or in the community. Try new things and ask plenty of questions. You’ll probably want to travel to nearby cities and sites on the weekends, but be sure to stay in your host city during some of your free days. Really be a part of the city and student life abroad. Don’t be just a visitor, an outsider looking in.
No matter how long you have studied a foreign language or prepared for student life abroad, you’ll have at least some difficulties adjusting to the culture of a new country. Part of the fun is overcoming these challenges and surrounding yourself with new ideas and new ways of life. Your ideas about American culture and traditions will grow and strengthen at the same time.