So you’ve just arrived in your study abroad home. Everything is different, everything is exciting, and most of all, everything is new.
Your first semester will be a huge learning curve. From navigating a new culture to overcoming language barriers and getting used to university life, a lot will be thrown at you in your first semester but you’ll emerge a more resilient and well-rounded version of you.
During hard times, and even when everything is going swimmingly well, it can be comforting to remember everyone experiences these life lessons during their first overseas semester – and everyone eventually gets through it.
So without further ado, here are five things you’ll learn during your first study abroad semester.
1) Things will go wrong
Now before you panic, just hear us out. Things will go wrong – that’s just a fact of life. But you’ll soon learn how to overcome them!
Whether it’s getting on the wrong bus, waking up late for a seminar, or losing your phone, you would have to be superhuman to survive your first study abroad semester without anything going wrong.
No amount of planning or organising can predict what may not go to plan in your first semester – you’re in a new environment, meeting interesting people and are likely to be busy.
It’s important to remember that when things go wrong, it’s unlikely to be the end of the world (unless you’re living in a Hollywood blockbuster, that is.)
When things go wrong, take a moment to consider your next move. Can you catch the next bus back the right way? Have you tried contacting your course mates or lecturer for the lecture notes? Do you have a spare phone or is there a shop nearby where you can get a new one?
It can be frustrating if something doesn’t go to plan but this is all part of the study abroad experience, allowing you to become a self-sufficient problem solver – a skill needed for many things in life.
2) Working out a budget in another currency is hard
If you’re not living that Crazy Rich Asians life and you belong to the 99 percent of international students on a seriously tight budget, this is a lesson you’ll soon learn.
Budgeting is hard enough when you arrive in a new place and want to make the most of everything it has to offer, but trying to do it in another currency presents a whole new element to consider.
Not only is trying to convert every purchase to your home currency mentally exhausting, it’s probably not that accurate, since most exchange rates fluctuate with market forces meaning that values often change.
You’re likely to find yourself overspending, or underspending out of worry if you’re constantly converting your spending to your home currency. So it’s best to switch your mindset to the currency you’re now using.
Work out your weekly income, saving goals and likely outgoings in the currency you’re using on the daily, ensuring you’ve got an accurate budget and don’t get a nasty surprise when checking your bank balance.
3) You’ll miss your friends, but you’ll make new ones
After growing up with people from the same background as you, it can be a shock to suddenly be surrounded by different cultures and perspectives.
The people you meet won’t know your whole life story, they won’t immediately know your unique quirks or pet hates and you might feel they just don’t ‘get you’ straight away.
All of this can really make you miss your friends from home – and while your childhood friends are irreplaceable, there’s a unique joy to be found in forming new friendships with the people you meet in your first study abroad semester.
The essential guide to making friends when you study abroad | Student Tips
Studying abroad in Europe is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make friends with people from different countries and cultures.
Being a new-comer can be nerve-wracking, but don’t… https://t.co/DfcPUcotJf
— Study Abroad Unit (@StudyAbroadUnit) September 6, 2018
Yes, they might have different opinions and interests to you, but you’ll soon realise that no matter who you’re talking to, there’s always some common ground or an opportunity to learn something new.
Everyone is in the same boat during the first semester: in a new place on their own and probably feeling homesick. This means friendships are created fast as you become each other’s support networks and experience the trials and tribulations of studying abroad together.
You’ll soon have your own personal jokes and sob stories with new friends in a bond like no other. They won’t replace your friends from home, but they will become lifelong pals from this chapter of your life.
4) You’ll gain a newfound appreciation for your home country
When you’ve lived somewhere all your life, it can be easy to take it for granted. Beautiful landscapes become everyday views, delicious food become your weekday meals and vibrant culture becomes your routine.
Your first semester abroad may represent the first time you’ve lived away from your home country, allowing you to experience something entirely new and different to your culture. Interesting flavours, activities and experiences are likely to come your way during your adventure.
The new environment is one of the best things about studying overseas and it’s likely to be one of the most memorable parts of your educational adventure, but you might just find you gain a newfound appreciation for your home country, too.
The traditions, cuisines and cultural quirks of where you grew up will always be a part of you, and you’re far more likely to see them in a new light when immersed in a place so different to home.
There may be things you realise you don’t like about where you’re from or you might find some things you prefer in your university location but overall, you’ll have a better perspective on how things are done at home.
5) You’re more adaptable and resilient than you thought
By the end of your first semester, you’ll have learned and overcome a lot. In between the studying and socialising, you’ll have grown in independence, confidence and resilience.
There were likely times you doubted your ability to continue or felt like everyone was coping a lot better than you. Truth is, everyone feels this way and it’s how you adapt to your situation that matters.
After your first semester, you’ll have proven to yourself you can achieve the impossible and overcome the unthinkable, coming out happier, stronger and better prepared for the future at the end of it all.
The self-confidence this brings allows you to respond to any challenges you encounter in life, making you more attractive to future friends, partners and employers.
While this doesn’t mean the rest of your study abroad experience will be plain sailing – there are always bound to be a few storms on the way – you’ll now have the adaptability and resilience needed to set your sail, carefully navigate challenges and continue on your journey.