The experience of studying abroad can be one of the most rewarding of a lifetime. It allows for pursuing a degree that will improve your future job prospects while exploring a new city and travelling. However, it can be hard to leave friends, family and everything you know behind to start over in a foreign country. While it is a daunting experience, there are several things you can do to settle in and find your place abroad.
Say ‘Yes’ Often
When speaking to people who have studied abroad, the most common advice you will hear is to do as much as you can. It can be easy to stay in, especially when you are feeling homesick, but you only have this experience once. Most universities will have welcome events for international students as well as ongoing events throughout the year. Attending these is a great way to make friends who are also studying abroad and so will want to explore the country and do as much as possible. There is no need to feel pressured to do everything, but if your new flatmates ask you to go out for lunch or to a pub quiz, it is a good idea to take up the opportunity. At university you can make the best friends with people you do not expect.
Join a Society
Joining a society or sports team is the best way to meet people with common interests to you. Universities offer a wide range of activities. If there is an activity you already enjoy such as dancing or debating, then you can take this up abroad. If not, you might as well try something new. It may be better to join a club you have never tried before as you can discover new interests. There could even be opportunities abroad that are not available back home. For example, in Scotland it is possible to take up Scottish ceilidh dancing or join a Harry Pottery Society. The focus should be on a few clubs rather than trying to join them all, so that you stay committed and get to know everyone.
Create a Society
If there is not a society that appeals to you, why not start up your own? This is easy to do, anyone can make a society as long as there is a demand for it and it does not already exist. Just get a few people together and give the idea to your university. This means that you can run the society and build your CV while also doing something you love and meeting likeminded people.
Get a Part-time Job
A part-time job is an excellent way to combine making money with settling in. Make sure you have a CV prepared and you can then use online job websites to find open vacancies. Alternatively, handing CVs into different shops and restaurants can also be effective as employers often keep these for when positions become available. A job can provide extra funds for travelling and is a place outside of university to meet people and build confidence and skills.
Take Up Volunteering
Why not volunteer for a cause you are passionate about? Whether this is fundraising for a charity that is looking for the cure to cancer, working with the disabled or elderly or protesting with Greenpeace, there are a host of opportunities available to you. Volunteering placements can often be found through your university, and sometimes involve trips abroad. Volunteer building projects in Cambodia or South Africa are rewarding, form close bonds with other volunteers, and allow you to see even more of the world.
The most important thing to bear in mind when finding your place abroad is to get involved. Everyone settles into a foreign country in a different way, but by keeping an open mind to opportunities, you can find the ones that are right from you. Try out something completely new and make the most of your study abroad experience.
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- By Caitlin Allan