After spending three — almost four — semesters away from Washington Square Park in London and Paris, you would think that I had the whole adjustment period down. I don’t. In fact, I’m far from it. My first month in Paris was a mess, but I’ve learned from it and have decided to share some of these discoveries. Here are five tips to help you survive your semester or year abroad.
The worst part about studying abroad is trying to find your favorite products. There are certain brands that just don’t exist outside of the U.S. Take some time to Google similar products and then start your search. My piece of advice is to visit your city’s Chinatown, if there is one. Some cities have stores specifically for American expats; they may be a bit pricey, but they’ll probably have what you’re looking for. If all else fails, try Amazon. It’s not always the best option, but it may be easier than scouring the city.
This one may seem pretty obvious, but coming from someone who is ridiculously shy and socially anxious, this is a must do. I recommend trying to connect with people at those meetings NYU makes us attend before we go abroad. This wasn’t something I had access to during my freshman year in London, but I was lucky. I became best friends with my roommates and people in two other rooms. In Paris, it took me a solid month and a half to find the amazing group of girls that I hang out with now. Don’t be afraid to walk up to someone and strike up a conversation. Almost everyone at your site is in the same boat as you are. Take advantage of it, and make some new friends. You’ll need them when you want to fly to Greece for the weekend.
Listen to the music. Watch a little kids show in a foreign language with English subtitles. Find a YouTuber who speaks the language. There are so many ways to learn a new language. It doesn’t have to be all textbooks and classrooms. The more you practice outside of the classroom, the more comfortable you’ll feel walking the streets of your new city.
Now don’t laugh at me, but for both of my years abroad, my favorite stuffed monkey has made the trip with me. I am a strong believer in comforting things — whether it be a favorite sweatshirt, a stuffed animal or a favorite food. Find your comforting thing, and bring it with you. It’ll make you feel a little less homesick to have something familiar by your side.
Don’t feel like you can’t message your friends and family back home while you’re abroad. I know you feel like you should be enjoying your semester and not making yourself homesick, but not having a support system is going to make it worse. Set up times, maybe once a week when you can FaceTime someone back home. This year, my support system has grown, and now, there are a number of people I can call whenever I need to talk and just not be in Paris for a second. It has really made a difference. Don’t cut yourself off from your loved ones just because you’re abroad. Make the time apart part of the experience.
Go forth into your semester abroad! I hope these little nuggets of wisdom will help you make the most out of your time in whatever city you find yourself.
Email Kaity Berg at [email protected]