So you packed your bags, said goodbye to your family and friends, and flew thousands of miles away to study. While this prospect seems like an exciting idea at first, there is no denying that starting all over again in a foreign land brings its unique set of challenges.
No matter how long you’re planning to stay, there are some things you can do to make your experience worthwhile. Here’s a guide to navigating life as a transfer student in a foreign country.
Familiarize yourself with the country’s language, history, and culture.
While there’s no way to fully know everything about a country without having lived there for many years, it’s still important to do your research on the land you’re moving to.
If you don’t speak their language, make sure that you at least know the basics and that you’re constantly learning and practicing it.
Read up on the country’s history and culture—it will give you an understanding of their current political landscape and a sensitivity to their collective pain. More importantly, talk to the locals about their views. While reading up on their nation’s story can provide you with the knowledge, talking to actual human beings can give you empathy.
Look for a dorm or accommodation that’s conducive to studying.
Not all dorms are created equal. If your university didn’t set up your accommodations, make sure you choose one that ticks all the right boxes: near the campus, safe, and suitable for studying. Many developers that build student dorms always have the students and even university staff’s convenience in mind. Studying abroad already comes with a lot of challenges, so choose a home that will make your stay much easier for you.
Make sure you have the tools to stay connected with the loved ones you’re leaving behind.
Consider investing in a durable laptop or tablet. Not only will you need it for studying, but you will also use it to stay connected with your family and friends back home. Being alone in a strange land can be lonely, and seeing your friends and family’s faces even through a screen can be incredibly reassuring and comforting.
Also, choose the best and most reliable internet provider—especially if you are doing a lot of online classes.
Invite your friends and family to come and visit you.
Depending on travel restrictions, you can encourage your loved ones to come and visit you. It can be a great opportunity for them to travel and explore a new country, and it can be the boost you need to do your best and keep going.
Know the ins and outs of your new neighborhood.
Take a neighborhood tour and familiarize yourself with the area. Keep a directory or a map of the essentials: hospitals, police stations, banks, groceries, dental clinics, and others.
Don’t forget to take note of the places of leisure, too: parks, bars, coffee shops, and malls. You will need them for when you decide to take a much-needed me-time.
Don’t be afraid to make friends.
It may be tempting to keep to yourself when you’re in a new environment, especially in the time of COVID-19. But friends can help you navigate your new normal, give you a perspective on the country you’re in, and be there for you when times are hard.
Reach out for help when you need it.
It can be a challenge to express vulnerability and sadness. As humans, it’s easier to shove our feelings under the rug and not have to deal with them. But if you’re going to survive in a foreign land, you need all the help you can get. Denying our negative feelings won’t make them go away; the only way out of a dark tunnel is to get through it.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help when you’re feeling lonely or homesick. Many universities offer in-house counseling, but if not, find a friend you can trust and open up to them. Ask for their help in finding professional help as well.
Explore, explore, explore!
Unless you decide to migrate for good, you won’t be in this country forever. So take the time to explore! Go to the most well-known landmarks and historical sites. Keep a journal and write down your thoughts. Take lots of pictures that you can show your kids one day, should you have them.
Make the Most of Your Time
If you’re going to spend a certain amount of time in a new place, you might as well make the best and most of it. While studying abroad comes with a lot of challenges, it also comes with a lot of privileges. So don’t just survive; thrive!