STUDENT ABROAD? TIPS TO HELP YOU ADJUST & THRIVE
It’s easy to see the fun side of studying abroad, but there are downsides too. The following pointers are geared towards helping international students who are having a tough time, or who just want to create more positive habits while abroad. The tips will also be helpful if you are a parent or friend who wants to better support a student in your life.
Experiencing a new culture, perhaps learning a new language, meeting people from all over the world… what’s not to love about studying abroad? Right?
But the truth is that being an international student can be really tough too. Often this isn’t well documented because we tend to share only the fun, exciting parts of our lives on social media.
It can be hard to leave home, to say goodbye to friends and family, to start a new life. This may also be your first great act of independence – suddenly you have to manage all kinds of basic life tasks on your own. You may also be dealing with culture shock on top of all the normal student pressure of keeping up with your course workload, socialising and finding time to relax.
If this feels challenging, or even overwhelming, you might find yourself withdrawing from situations and interactions that would usually be effortless. It’s important to recognise that you are not alone and that this rollercoaster of emotions is normal, and that it will pass in time. Most people feel anxious when faced with a big change in their lives and studying abroad certainly qualifies as one!
Some tips to help you cope better
- Make an appointment with a study advisor – Most tertiary institutions abroad have a support system in place to give students like you the opportunity to talk about any difficulties you are facing. It might be daunting to open up initially, but once you do, you will feel a great sense of relief. The study advisor will also help you to set up a plan to deal with your problems.
- Manage your time – Creating a daily routine that enables you to manage your studies, as well as relax, is an important skill to learn. Check if your college has any time management workshops or look online for helpful resources (you may also want to read this article about staying organized in a connected world).
- Rely on your support base – Just because you have moved abroad doesn’t mean you can’t contact those who have supported you in the past, whether that’s one trusted friend or more. Reach out to people who are non-judgemental and good listeners, both at home and in your new country.
- Stretch yourself and welcome more joy into your life – Do things out of your comfort zone. By withdrawing from situations that are new and uncomfortable, or isolating yourself, you stay safe and comfortable, but growth does not come from certainty. Each day, set a mini goal to do something you wouldn’t usually do. How about going to a sports club with the aim of speaking to two or three new people? Or doing a city tour to become more familiar with your new surroundings? Eventually new situations won’t seem as intimidating.
- Be as positive as possible – It’s easy to focus only on the positive memories of home and normal to feel homesick, but commit to focusing on the many positives of studying abroad. This will help you to enjoy your time away and the gifts it offers you.
- Be mindful of yourself and others – Your fellow foreign students are likely to be in the same boat, so initiate an honest conversation with them about how you’re feeling. More often than not, they will respond with empathy and you might form bonds you hadn’t thought possible. Find out how skilled you are at relating to people of other cultures by taking this quiz from the Council of Europe. Being aware of your intercultural skills will help you to adjust easier.
PLUS: Browse the Expat Nest blog for tips and advice on any of the challenges you are facing. Because remember: you are not alone. If you feel you need extra support at any stage, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We work online and across time zones and languages, which means our support is flexible enough to work with your busy schedule.
We hope this advice helps you feel stronger and more positive, so that you can really enjoy this exciting phase of your life.
With thanks to Sophie Patrick for her contribution to this article.
What else would you add, if you are a student, are supporting a student, or have been there, done that? Share your tips below or forward this article to someone who’s in this position right now. A student far from home may appreciate hearing your story!