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Say Yes: Five Lessons Learned During My First Month Studying Abroad

October 31, 2017

Being completely submerged into a new place and culture was overwhelming to say the least.

I arrived in England almost three weeks ago. Slowly but surely, I learned how to adapt and grow with each passing day. Each lesson learned helped me to feel less like a foreigner and more like a local.

1. Celebrate the small victories.

Before I moved to England, I didn’t realize something so small and routine could be so difficult. Yet there I was, making circles in the local grocery store without a clue as to what each brand meant or what I should buy. Even tasks such as crossing the street can be daunting when you don’t know if it’s safe to walk. Studying abroad is full of challenges, both big and small. It took me a week or so to realize that I should celebrate all victories because even if they don’t seem life-changing at the time, every challenge conquered brought me one step closer to truly living like a local.

2. Talk to the person sitting next to you.

There isn’t anything more terrifying than being in an unfamiliar place full of unfamiliar faces. Do you know the quickest way to solve that? Introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you. There you have it…one familiar face. You never know, you might meet your new best friend or your semester-long study partner.

3. Embrace differences.

Arriving in a new country, it was difficult for me to look past the differences in cultures. I would constantly find myself missing all things American…ranch dressing, free bathrooms and labels with brands that I actually recognized. I didn’t realize until later that these differences don’t have to be good or bad. It’s not black and white. They’re simply different. Now, I find myself falling in love with some of the United Kingdom’s unique traits…traditional pasties, classic architecture and even the unpredictable weather.

4. Befriend the locals.

The best way to truly experience the culture of your new country is to make friends with locals. It can be intimidating and even a little scary but I promise it will be worth it. If it wasn’t for some of my British flatmates, I would be completely lost. They have shown me around my host city, introduced me to the most delicious sweets and have even taught me the ‘right’ way to say words like tomato and caramel. They have made the first few weeks in England a breeze, and I couldn’t be more thankful for them.

5. Say yes.

The most important lesson I’ve learned during this first month is simply to say yes. To opportunities, to new foods and to adventure. That’s what we’re here to do, right? Adventure. See the world. Make memories. Gain knowledge. I know I can only do that by taking advantage of whatever comes my way, and so can you.

Studying abroad isn’t easy, but I have a feeling it will be worth it.

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