Integrating yourself with the Soul of a Country: Things to Do while Studying Abroad
Studying abroad can be one of life’s most unforgettable experiences and is often a steep learning curve in one’s personal and professional life. While this experience can be enriching, living in a new country and culture can at times also be an alienating experience. One is bound to experience bouts of loneliness and homesickness at some point during their studies abroad. These feelings may arise due to differences in culture and depending on your destination also due to a new language. While such feelings are natural on the one hand, there is a lot that one can do to better integrate themselves while studying abroad. By doing this, not only do you enjoy your time abroad but you are able to make the most of the benefits of studying abroad and thus you ensure that this is indeed one of the most memorable times of your life. So, here are the things to do while studying abroad:
Start while still at home
There is a lot you can do to ensure that you are well-prepared for your stay abroad even before you leave home. One of the best ways to start is by reading up about the country you are going to. This helps you to immerse yourself in their culture even before you have physically landed in that country. Read up on all the topics that interest you, e.g., culture, history, current events, art, etc. Maybe you will even find certain parallels between your own culture and that of your destination nation thereby providing you with some threads of connection even before you have arrived there.
Language is one of the key ways to integrate yourself into a new country. This is true for those students who are studying in a country with a different native language to their own. Learning the vernacular helps you navigate yourself around a new place much more easily; be it buying groceries at the local supermarket or asking for directions. More often than not the locals are more willing to help you out if you speak to them in their native language. This could simply be because they do not speak any other language. Also they really appreciate the fact that you have put in some time and effort in learning their language. You don’t have to be fluent! What counts is that you try to speak their language and it is sure to put a smile on the faces of your friends, professors and other local people that you interact with. If possible start learning the language of your destination country while still at home. Otherwise enroll yourself for language courses at your university abroad or you can just practice with your local peers as often as you can and soon you will begin to feel more relaxed and at home.
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Another important aspect of staying in another country is to be respectful of their culture and customs. This is one of the things to do while studying abroad. The local people will truly appreciate you for it and therefore make you feel more welcome. Reading and learning about the do’s and don’ts of the place will help you avoid committing social faux pas and help you feel more at ease. For example, one can simply do an internet search for topics such as dining etiquette for your country of study. This will be useful in social situations such a dining out with your friends where instead of fumbling around and feeling nervous, you can confidently take part in the conversations and have a good time.
Participating in social activities
A fun way to integrate yourself into a new place is by taking part in social activities such as cooking together with your new-made friends in your destination country. This is a really enjoyable way to interact with your peers and to learn about their culture. And often is the case that your classmates are as eager to learn about your food, culture, and customs as you are to learn about theirs. Other social activities such as sports, discussions and round tables in the university, theater, opera, etc. are great ways to integrate yourself in the local community while studying abroad.
Travel locally within your destination country whenever you can. It opens your eyes to the subtle differences one finds in culture, language and customs within a country. It helps you gain a deeper level of understanding and a finer appreciation of the culture of that land
Want to share your experiences of things to do while studying abroad? Feel free to share in the comment section below.
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