Your first couple of weeks at your study abroad location can be one of the most exciting, confusing, emotional and life-enhancing times of your life. I have created a list of some important things to do or try out when you arrive at your new home.
- Go to the highest points: One of my favorite things to do whenever I arrive to a new destination is to go to some of the highest points possible – whether they be skyscraper observation decks, rooftop bars or a mountain’s peak. I do this because it helps me gain perspective on where I am and will help me acclimate to the geography of the place. This is beneficial because you will start learning your way around better and, if you are in a major city, it may help you feel less overwhelmed.
- Make a list of things to do: A great way to outline your trip and give you some direction on what to do is by making lists. It is easy to get overwhelmed while traveling by the sheer number of things to do. So it is better to write it down so you can visualize your options and you can make a plan for how to will accomplish everything you want to do.
- Get comfortable with being uncomfortable: Learn to accept your new environment and the fact that it may feel alien to you. Get out of your comfort zone and do not be afraid to get lost, take the wrong public transportation or try a new food. In the long run you will learn things a lot faster this way and gain way more life experience to use down the road.
- Find a community to be a part of: It is not uncommon to, at times, feel very alone or homesick while traveling abroad. That is why researching campus organizations to join or looking up groups of people who share common interests with you on Meetup can be critical in helping you through rough patches.
- Find the line between being a lone wolf and social butterfly: It is important to be social and meet new people while studying abroad, but it should also be seen as a time to really experience being on your own. Do not be afraid to go on an adventure by yourself, but also make sure you are allowing yourself a healthy amount of social interaction with locals and exchange students alike.
- Do not be obsessed with your camera: Studying abroad may be the most prime time for your Instagram account, but do not view all of your experiences through a camera lens. It is good to take pictures for memories sake or for your blog, but it is also healthy to hold onto some images with your mind. Just work on finding a balance, try going on adventures without any cameras at all. Then, if you really enjoy a place, go back another time with your camera to snap some epic shots.
- Learn to appreciate reading: In our fast paced and technology filled lives, it is easy to forget the joy one can get from a good book. I grew up loving to read, but as I got older I began reading less and less. My time here in Singapore has helped me fall in love with books all over again. As busy as you may be while abroad, you will still have an incredible amount of free time. You will also have lots of free time if you are using public transportation a lot. Instead of being on your phone or listening to music, try reading. In three months I have read six books (five of which were the Game of Thrones series with 1,000-plus words apiece!).
- Learn how to travel like a minimalist: At first, you may think you never bring enough stuff or that you might be missing something while traveling. Having all of this stuff can cause unnecessary stress and will only weigh you down (literally and figuratively) while adventuring around. Try buying items that are travel sized, sacrifice the quantity of your clothes for the quality of them, and find peace with the fact that you might not have something you thought you needed. You can always buy it when you get to wherever you are traveling or you might find out you can survive happily without it. When in doubt, pack less.
- Keep a journal or blog: This is a great way to track everything you do and it will be a source of happiness when you look back at it in the future. This can also be used to guide others who want to travel or experience the same things.
- Do not hold back: Just do it. Be yourself. Get stoked. Live it up (while also being safe).
I hope these tips can help you out! Like always, remember to stay stoked and positive!
Garrett Hein is earning a bachelor’s degree in international security and conflict resolution at San Diego State University. He is blogging from Singapore this fall.