Studying abroad is fun, but it can get overwhelming at times. ISEP alumni Carlos, a Universidad Católica de Córdoba student who studied abroad at Universidad Pública de Navarra, shares his advice for settling in to your home away from home: your study abroad host country.
When you first arrive
It is very normal to be completely lost the first few days. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, there will always be someone to help you! Calm down and give yourself some time to get used to your new home. And remember, you are the one who needs to work hard to get the most from this experience.
As soon as you arrive, get familiar with the extra activities offered at the university. At Universidad Pública de Navarra, for example, you can get involved in volunteering programs, sports, outdoors activities and more. Don’t wait for others to invite you, be proactive!
As you settle in to your new home
Ask your classmates about different aspects of life in your host city and university (it’s also a great opportunity to break the ice). They might have a Facebook or Whatsapp group, which can be useful to keep updated about local news.
Regarding your housing, I recommend living either with locals or other exchange students. Both situations will offer benefits, but no matter what, you will have the chance to meet and interact with people from new cultures. Your housing situation can make a big difference in the amount of culture exchange that you experience.
Concerning your classes, I strongly recommend contacting your teachers before registering for classes. During the first few days, you might not be in the university system. If you contact them, they will be able to inform you about any changes or updates until you are in the system.
It will be much easier for you to spend time with other students from your home country or other exchange students. However, try to live like a local by actually meeting locals. Even if it seems hard at first, give it some time; with effort, you will be able to make it work.
Throughout your experience
It’s okay to miss home. Keep in touch with your family and friends, but try to enjoy the present. Go out, explore the city and surroundings, and understand the host culture because it will help you to understand your own. In the first few days, I recommend trying to organize an international meal with other exchange students, your flat mates and maybe a new friend from the university.
Take advantage of the chance to travel! Ask your new friends for advice, and learn about non-traditional (to you) ways of doing getting around. Travel like a local! In Europe, you can try Couchsurfing, BlaBlaCar and the famous low-cost airlines. These are great options if you travel alone, and will help you to meet locals and have great experiences in every city you visit.
Finally, I invite you to make the most of your time abroad. There will be good times and not-as-good times, but it is a wonderful experience!
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