Study Abroad: Week One
I've survived my first week being in an unknown country, and I have learned so much already. This incredible journey has already made internal -- as well as physical -- changes in me. I've come to learn what went wrong and what went completely right, and I'm here now to share what I've experienced thus far:
1) Do not try to diet while you're abroad. I'm not saying eat everything in plain sight, but don't stress yourself out too much if you have some sweets every now and then. It's normal to gain weight and nobody's going to judge you for it (and if they do, they're probably not the type of people you want to surround yourself with). Try to incorporate fruits and vegetables into your diet as much as possible, but don't beat yourself up if your eating habits aren't perfect. Also, don't limit yourself to what you know you like to eat. Add some variety to your meals and try the local tasty foods.
2) Go to your host country as early as possible. I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to go to Australia three weeks before classes started, and it has been one of the best decisions I've made so far. Within the week, I've managed to befriend local students who have helped me get comfortable with the campus and the city, and I've dealt with the repercussions of jet lag. The worst thing you can do, at least in my opinion, is show up to your host country the day before Uni starts. Not only will you be exhausted from the travel, but you will have to deal with all of the stressful unknowns: not knowing at all where you are and starting classes so soon.
3) Explore your surroundings alone. I've already made some close relationships in only a week of having moved into my new home, and they have been immensely helpful in making me feel at home. However, I think it's extremely important to venture off on your own. Studying abroad is about you, your education and your growth. Get out of your comfort zone and take the bus by yourself, to some place you read about and want to see. While your newfound friends can give excellent advice about the sites to see, they aren't your personal tour guides. You will drive yourself mad and may even become a bit depressed if you stay locked up in your dorm room.
4) Research what your dorm room looks like. Before I came to Australia, I had an idea of what my dorm room would look like, but I failed to realize that my walls were made of brick. Because of this, I wasn't able to hang most of the decorations I brought with me to make my room feel more like home. You could save yourself a lot of suitcase space by knowing what you will and what you won't be able to use.
5) Wait until you move in to purchase certain items. This tip usually only applies to those who will be staying where other international students are leaving. When international students are leaving, they don’t take everything with them back home; you can usually find bedding, pillows, towels, hangers, laundry baskets, dining sets, and other useful things for pretty cheap, if not free.
6) Be prepared to adjust. This suggestion is a bit broad because it applies to a couple of different things. When you arrive at your host country, you will probably need to buy outlet adaptors for your electronics. Make sure your cords can fit into these converters. I actually brought a power cord with me from home, which is a smart thing to do, but I didn't realize it didn't fit into the converter until after I bought it. Also, you're likely to change time zones when you leave home, and if you want to keep in contact with your friends and family, you're going to have to keep that in mind. WhatsApp is a free smartphone app that you can use with WiFi to message people back home. I highly recommend downloading it and encouraging those you want to stay in touch with to do the same. Skype is another useful tool and I'm sure I don't have to go into too much detail about the benefits of using it.
I've had both ups and downs only within the first week of being abroad, but I already know that going on exchange has been one of the best decisions of my life. I hope these tips have been helpful and I will extend more advice here in the future once I experience more problems and successes.