How to survive your first week abroad

Image: Saskia Brüske

[Saskia Brüske | Contributing Writer]

Back in February, when I had been offered a place at Herts to study abroad, I couldn’t imagine what a great adventure would await me. It has always been rather hard for me to settle into new surroundings, so I was both excited and terrified. Now that October is in full swing, I decided to look back at my first few weeks at Herts.

So if you’re anything like me and tend to get homesick quite easily, here are my personal ‘Top 5 Tips’ on how to survive your very first week living hundreds or thousands of miles away from home.

Tip 1: Unpack your bags

Now, this may sound ridiculous because, naturally, you’re going to have to take out all your belongings. But that’s the point: when I arrived at my room on campus, all I wanted to do was grab my bags and head straight back to the airport. It was not until I started to unpack that I noticed it made me feel more at home in this very un-me room.

Tip 2: Find people from your home country

Of course you’re going to want to meet new friends from your host country. I actually put so much pressure on myself that I avoided getting to know people from my home country during the first few days, just to prevent myself from talking too much German. It then occurred to me that meeting up with fellow Germans (or any other international students, really) helps a lot with feeling more comfortable.

Tip 3: Make use of Skype

This obviously depends on yourself and what you’re used to, but for me, skyping a lot with my family helped immensely. Some days they would just place the phone somewhere where I could watch them and feel almost like I was with them at home.

Tip 4: Get involved

Besides skyping a lot, I tried to get equally involved with the many activities and opportunities offered on the campus. The Overseas Students’ Orientation Programme definitely helped me settle in – from supermarket trips, food nights, bowling evenings and different trips, the lovely team offered help and hosted events for all us international students and I am so glad I got involved with that.

Tip 5: Shift the pressure

Last but surely not least: try to enjoy being away from home but don’t pressure yourself. The whole situation of being on your own in a country you actually don’t know too well is challenging enough, so if there is anything you don’t want, it is mental stress. Keep your head up in moments when you are feeling low and don’t isolate yourself. Get outside, explore your new surroundings, enjoy yourself and most importantly, feel comfortable in everything you do.

Of course, everyone is different and everyone has different things in life that may help, but seeing as I managed to get through my first few weeks with the tips above, you might want to keep them in mind when studying abroad yourself. If you do so: I hope you will have a wonderful time and make memories that will last a lifetime. I know I’ve already got some of those.

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How to survive your first week abroad