You will be so excited to finally get off the plane, and will practically skip to your new home. Try not to get too excited, and be patient. You still have a lot more steps to go through before you’re fully settled. Don’t be like me and try not to leave your phone on the airport shuttle.
You probably won’t know anyone at your host institution. INTRODUCE YOURSELF! One of the easiest ways to fight off homesickness is to make new friends to share experiences with. If you’re not extroverted this may be a tall order, but take a deep breath and go for it. Most likely other international students will want to make new friends as well.
You’ll want to visit and take advantage of your foreign experience, and might be tempted to just wing spontaneous travel plans. Resist the temptation! You’ll want to make plans, whether it’s a trip to the city or traveling across countries - where you’re going, how you’re getting there, what to do when you get there. No one wants to be lost in a foreign country, and preparing well is the best way to avoid that.
Alternatively, you might be tempted to stay in your dorm or homestay and catch up on homework, sleep, or Stranger Things Season 2. Push yourself to get out there. You’re only in this country for a limited time, and you don’t want regrets at the end of your trip. Try to integrate yourself with the local culture as much as possible.
You’ll want to buy all the new and exciting things that are around you. Remember, you’re not a tourist - for the next few months, you’re a resident. Definitely let yourself experience the local culture, but stay away from generic souvenirs. Spend the money on the things that will count.
You’ll probably realize how drastically different the classes in your host institution are from your home institution. Maybe you went to a small school and all of a sudden you’re in a lecture hall with 100 other students. Maybe you went to a large state school, and now your professor is paying uncomfortably close attention to you. It’ll likely be different. Embrace the change! These experiences, even if you end up deciding that you prefer your home institution, will help you determine your path in life.
If you’re going to a country where a different language is spoken, you might realize for the first time how much you don’t understand. That’s okay. Download a translation map, and never take instructions in your native language for granted again.
You will feel homesick. Perhaps desperately so. You will cry, and you will feel alone and you will miss everything that was comfortable and familiar. You’ll question if studying abroad was the right choice, and realize that it’s too late to back out now. You are not a failure or weak for feeling these things. Your feelings are normal, and they will pass. In fact, you are strong and brave and incredible for making the decision to study abroad. The memories you make here will last a lifetime. As difficult as it can be, studying abroad can and will change your life. Now good luck, and go wander.
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