As you are walking through the streets of London, you take notice of the differences it has to the U.S. The stores and restaurants you didn’t know existed, the way people dress and speak, even the way people walk. It is your first time in London, and Europe, so you try to take it all in. But you can’t help notice how different everything is and you start to miss your home.
That is one of the many experiences new study abroad students may face, including me. Being in a new country is hard enough, but doing it yourself can be an even harder struggle. That said, it’s important to remember that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and you must try as hard as you can to keep up. Even though I have not been in London for long, I think I have some knowledge of how to feel more comfortable somewhere new.
- Get to know the locals. An important part of getting connected with the city you are studying in is learning about the people who live there. It may be out of your comfort zone, but try and talk to store owners, waiters, baristas, or anyone you find interesting. You might strike up a great conversation and meet someone you wouldn’t have known otherwise. Locals also can give you recommendations for new restaurants and shops to try. If you’re not into talking to new and unfamiliar people, try your professors. Many of them probably live around the area and can help you become more confident and comfortable.
- Talk to your family and friends back home. While being in a new place is incredibly exciting and time consuming to learn, stay in touch with your friends and family from your home. It helps a lot with homesickness and staying up to date with whatever could be going on. Being so far from home is definitely not easy, but video chatting and texting can make it feel better. Also remember to send everyone pictures of the amazing places you are traveling to so they can get excited (and maybe a bit jealous) for your travels!
- Stay connected with local news and media. In order to truly feel part of the country where you are studying, you have to know what’s going on. Become aware of popular newspapers and websites to keep up to date. For example, the BBC and the Guardian are very popular sites with easy access to real time news. Also try to stay connected with popular films and music in the area; you may find something new that you love. Keeping in touch with these can also guide you to new relationships with people living in surrounding areas.
- Explore your new city! The most important part of studying abroad, besides the studying, of course, is the thrilling opportunity to travel. If you are staying anywhere in Europe, it is much faster to get to different countries than in the United States. But even if you choose to only stay within one country, there are so many opportunities to explore. Visiting popular tourist sites may seem cheesy and cringey, but they’re popular for a reason. For instance, you can’t go to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower and you can’t go to Rome without seeing the Colosseum. It may not seem super exciting, but it’s imperative to learn about the new cultures surrounding you and experience new places.
After only being in London for three weeks, I already have a grasp on so many new concepts. I was shocked at how easy the tube (subway) was to understand and walking to class has become exciting. Even in mundane parts of the city, there is always something you will fall in love with. So please, take advantage of your opportunity to study abroad and, most importantly, have fun!