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Four Tips for Your First Week Abroad

December 8, 2017

At this point, I have been in England for almost exactly one week. I can’t say if it is the same or different than what I was expecting because it is my first trip out of the country and to England. In some ways it is much the same as South Dakota but in lots of ways it is vastly different.

Currently I am on the tail end of what they call ‘Fresher’s Week’ here. It is full of class inductions (orientations), tasters (tryout sessions for sports and social clubs) and overall tons of free (and some paid) events.

I believe that every exchange program is different because no country and university are the same. However, after this first week, I have four suggestions I believe will help people settle in and enjoy their first week of exchange.

1. Meet People This one is probably going to feel like advice you heard freshman year all over again but it’s true. You won’t make any friends sitting in your room watching Netflix. I made a sign with my name and a message saying, “Come in, just knock first.” I also wedged my door open, made sure to hang out in the common room a lot and just started conversations.

2. Get Connected My floor mates and I have a Facebook group. It is a really helpful tool to coordinate group events and outings to see if anyone is up for a quick Tesco (food) trip, exploring town, a shopping trip, if you have a question or just need help with something. Sadly, I can’t take credit for this idea, that belongs to my Brazilian friend Lívia.

3. Embrace the Differences Even though America and England are similar, both are English speaking countries – there are quite a lot of differences. This week I tried new things that I wouldn’t ordinarily have if I was stuck in my American mentality. For example, one of the other students in my floor ordered pizza for those of us in the common room. When it arrived, it ended up having corn on it! In South Dakota, that does not happen, and I expected it to be gross, but it was actually pretty good.

4. Do as Much as Possible I feel like this one can be applied to every university experience, whether at home or abroad. The first few weeks there are so many free opportunities: sports classes, club meetings and student discounts throughout town. Make sure to do as many of them as you can, before they go away. Also if you are studying abroad, use your weekends. Some of the other international students and myself are planning to go to Oxford, Dublin, Edinburgh, Manchester and Liverpool together. Your study abroad experience won’t last forever, so make the most out of it.

Some of these things you have probably heard before but it’s great reminders to help you get the most out of your study abroad experience. Just a warning, if your first week is anything like mine, you will be TIRED. Just remember you can sleep when you go home. ;) Thanks for reading!

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