Before going abroad, everyone warns you about the dangers of culture shock. They say it takes a while to get used to the language, the social norms can be completely different than your own and that you will miss your home. I ignored these comments because I had already been abroad a couple times with my university and for vacations. However, these feelings are real, and I underestimated the effect they would have on me. Here are some of the things I did to cope with my feelings and uncertainties I had about my new home in Murcia, Spain.
The fact that I would be away from my family for a year finally hit me at the airport, which was very difficult because of how close we are. Many people suggested I write down everything in a journal so that I would never forget my experience abroad. While writing my first journal entry, I couldn’t stop crying. Although I was excited to be in Spain, I had just arrived and was too exhausted to be writing about what was on my mind. Then I decided to stop writing how I was feeling, and instead I wrote about all the positive things I noticed since I’d landed. This optimistic outlook worked and brightened my mood quickly. I suggest taking a second to remember why you are studying abroad and that it will get easier over time.
At first there isn’t much to do in terms of responsibilities. This means there is time to explore the city you’re going to be staying in for the next few months. Take advantage of that time by discovering things unique to your city, like food, music and shops. This will help you learn your way around the city and appreciate your new home away from home.
Friends are very important to me. They are a great way to maintain a positive attitude on days when you’re feeling homesick or lonely. I suggest finding a few people who you share common interests with. Don’t get discouraged if it takes some time, it’s just like making friends at college again. As many of you likely know, college friends can be friends for life.
Last but not least, know yourself. By this I mean, know your limits. While abroad, there will be many moments when you feel like you’re outside of your comfort zone. Although this can be frustrating at times, it will help you grow as an individual. There will be moments when you need to Facetime a friend or family member from home, and that’s okay. Just recognize what you need to stay comfortable, because your time abroad should be remembered as an overall remarkable experience.
Studying abroad has its ups and downs, but you should be proud for putting yourself out there. Understand that whatever emotions you’re feeling are all validated and normal because culture shock is real, but still manageable.
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