May 2, 2011

How to Survive for a Semester in a Foreign Country

Studying abroad can be a great experience, and it's one that students should definitely seek out if they possibly can. What other time of your life can you spend a few months living in a foreign country on your own with little to worry about besides school? It's really a great opportunity, as it can both expand your horizons and hurry along your own personal development.

However, studying abroad also comes with its own unique set of trying circumstances. After all, when you study abroad you remove yourself from your friends and family for a long period of time; you have to navigate the often confusing customs and ways of living in another country; and you are on your own.

But this doesn't mean it can't be done! In fact, there are all sorts of resources out there that should help you as you prepare to survive on your own for a few months. Here are a few tips I could gather from these resources. Keep in mind that you'll also want to talk with an academic counselor at your school who could help you as well.

Don't be Lonely!

Yes, you might go abroad on your own, but that doesn't mean you have to be lonely during your semester away from home. One way to help you survive the few months of study abroad is to make friends. Many abroad programs will send groups of students over, so you can make friends with others in your programs. You should also try to make friends with locals, students in your classes or university, with whom you can interact. These two kinds of relationships can give your life abroad variety, and they can keep you from feeling too lonely.

Practice Self-Reflection

Of course, there will be times when you'll feel lonely. It's natural to feel lonely, out of sorts, and a little homesick when you go abroad. However, that doesn't reduce the pain! Instead of simply suffering that pain or trying to ignore it, you should try to reflect upon it. Keep a journal during your time abroad. Write a blog for your friends and family. Read a lot. This is a period of your life during which you'll really learn who you really are. Living on your own abroad forces you to resort to your own devices, which means you are building qualities that will help you be self-sufficient later in life. Yes, the growing process is a little painful, but it's worth it in the end.

See the Sights

As a student abroad, you will find yourself wondering what to do during holidays and breaks. Sure, you can fly home and visit with family, whom you know doubt want to see. But also, you should consider taking this opportunity to travel around the country in which you are staying. Often you can find cheap ways to travel: hostels, trains and buses, and backpacking. Yes, we all know that backpacking through Europe is a common cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason. The image of the student abroad discovering the world for him or herself is important to our culture and our sense of camaraderie with other humans.

Of course, these are only a handful of things you can do to survive the long stay in a foreign country. Obviously, you should throw yourself into your studies, sample the local cuisines, build relationships with your professors, and take lots of pictures. Think of your time abroad as something of an adventure to be enjoyed, and you'll soon feel as though the time passed too quickly.

This guest post is contributed by Mariana Ashley, a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031

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