New friends, new city, new culture… and a fresh start.
We’ve all felt those butterflies before, staring at the ceiling, wide awake with thousands of thoughts rushing through our minds. I’ve had my fair share of study abroad jitters, after leaving my home in The Netherlands to study at École hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland and completing a 6 month internship in Barcelona. I can promise you that amazing and memorable experiences are right around the corner – choosing to study abroad will be one of the best decisions you have ever made!
1. Get connected with the online community
One of the best ways for you to connect with other students is through FaceBook Groups– find your university intake or a study abroad group in the country you’re studying in and reach out to fellow students. Touch base with your study abroad office at your University for tips from your advisors. Take the opportunity to establish connections, arrange to meet before the semester starts and ask any questions you might have, after all, you are all in the same boat and someone might be able to help you out! Read the many stories and tips from students on
2. Make a bucketlist
Cultural exposure and sightseeing is a great way to spend your time and familiarise yourself with your new home for the next few months. Try using TripAdvisor to find recommended restaurants, sights, monuments, day trips, tours and activities. You can also check out websites like Insider Food, they cover notable food outlets that are currently trending. Note these places down in a notebook and aim to cross them all off by the time you leave.
3. Get a student’s point of view
Check out online student blogs for a student perspective on studying abroad. They can provide valuable advice from their own experiences that may help to answer some of your questions or worries. Get inspired by their stories – you could be in their shoes in a few months time, writing about your semester studying abroad for others to read!
4. Book your flights home
Especially useful for those moments you are feeling a little homesick, remember that your study abroad experience is time bound. I always find that it helps to have a date to look forward to when I’m missing home. Count down the days until you will be back home with your family and make the most of your time studying abroad by ticking things off your bucketlist in the meantime.
5. Bring your favorite comfort items
I tend to think twice about packing my favorite instant noodles, Australian T2 peppermint tea bags, soft slippers and my fluffiest blanket, but I never regret bringing them! It helps to have your favorite familiar items to make your new room feel a little more like home and to have your favorite snacks to munch on when you’re feeling homesick.
6. Familiarise yourself with the language
Try completing a short language course online with websites like Babbel, edX and Coursera or language apps like Duolingo. It can be a great comfort to feel more familiar with the language and to pick up a couple phrases. Alternatively, you could download a language dictionary app on your phone. The Google Translate app is especially useful. You can download languages and use your camera to take pictures of foreign text, which the app will then identify and translate for you. This is an absolute lifesaver for when you need to translate large bodies of text and don’t want to spend time typing in every word. I have used it for translating letters, medication packets, instructions for furniture, shampoo bottles and on many other occasions.
Don’t let others worry you! Avoid people who pile the negativity on you – but if you do find yourself doubting your decision and feeling worried:
Try to combat every negative thought with a positive one: I may be missing out on things back home, but I will be starting a new chapter of my life with new people where I can explore a new city!
Find a solution to the negative thoughts: I’m worried I won’t know anyone… but I could reach out to some other students on the Facebook group and connect with some new people!
8. Set times to speak with your friends/family
Dedicate (and stick to!) a day and time to talk to your friends and family (don’t forget to take into account those pesky time zone changes!). Coordinate everyone’s busy schedules to make sure you still stay in touch, even if you’re half way around the world.
9. Forget about FOMO
A semester abroad is only a few months of your life, embrace the opportunity that you have! You may miss out, but the places you’ll go, the sights you’ll see and the friendships you’ll make will definitely make up for it. Replace the FOMO with the thrill of wanderlust and make the most of your time abroad.
10. Get organised
Start organising everything early to avoid that last minute panic – make a packing list, pack a little bit every day, check you have the right documents, school admission papers, housing contracts, finalise your travel itinerary. I always travel with my passport wallet to keep all of my important documents in one safe place. Try to organise yourself so you have less to worry about as your departure date approaches, and get ready to embark on your latest adventure.