Travelling to a brand new country can be a daunting thing, especially when you’re planning to stay there for a significant amount of time and study there. But, if you’ve now made the decision to spend some of your degree abroad, there is so much to look forward to and get excited about in advance.
Perhaps the most obvious aspect of studying abroad to look forward to is the people you’ll meet there. I did the third year of my degree at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) in America and I can honestly say that I have made friendships there that will last a lifetime. I met so many great people in my classes and accommodation but also just around campus. I’m still in touch with many of these people and several of them have even been to visit me in the UK. While you’re abroad, the new friends you make will give you the best memories from your time away, but they’ll also give you a first-hand experience of what it’s like to grow up in the place you’ve moved to and help you find your way around. And if you’re worried about making friends over there, this leads onto my next point. Please don’t be concerned because there are so many activities you can do to meet new people. Much like when you started at Swansea, your new university should offer a welcome week of some sort which will give you so many chances to meet new people. I think this might be particularly true in America as the difference in drinking laws mean that the activities offered in that week are really chilled and social as they don’t involve drinking. I went to several different things on offer, including an early morning yoga session, a hypnosis show, and a tour of the local area. These things all gave me the chance to get to know other people. Societies are probably the best way to make new friends as you’ll immediately have a common interest with everyone else there. Especially if you’re feeling the culture shock and a bit out of your comfort zone, it can be really nice to do something familiar, and your new university might even have an international student society of some sort where you can meet others in the same boat. If not, don’t forget how popular the British accent is abroad! People will be interested to hear where you’re from and why you’ve chosen to study at their university and the accent is a good conversation starter.
Th UMBC Campus
But there’s more to time abroad than socialising! Your basic day to day life might be different to how it is now with simple things such as going to the shop, transport and general culture all suddenly unknown, especially if you’re facing a language barrier. But this can be an opportunity for excitement instead of fear as it will show you so much about the place you’ve come to. One of the weirdest things I discovered about America was that there was very little public transport compared with the UK, and the vast majority of students drove. This could have made going to the supermarket difficult but my roommate was always happy to give me a lift and there was a bus on hand if need be.
Classes are another thing to look forward to, mainly because they are likely to be quite different from your education in Swansea. Even if you are taught in English, the content or basic way of teaching or assessment will probably not be what you’re used to. But you might find you really enjoy this new way of learning, or take a class that you never would have done in Swansea and discover that this is your new favourite topic. And if you’re being taught completely in a different language, this is one of the best ways to achieve fluency so see it as an opportunity rather than something to worry about.
In terms of finding your feet, exploring the campus is a great way to find your bearings and help you feel more settled in your new environment. It’s unlikely the place you find yourself in will look exactly like Swansea (which will probably make you appreciate the beach even more!) but hopefully you’ve been assigned somewhere that you’re interested in and will enjoy seeing. The new campus might be overwhelmingly different from what you’re used to but that just means you’ll have a brand new experience. Getting to know the new place you live in is something to be excited about. The local town or city will be your new home and, while this might sound scary, it’s a great opportunity to make memories somewhere completely new. A bit like going on holiday, but for longer! Visiting a new country can also provide fantastic opportunities for travel and to see a wide range of cultures or different ways of life. There’s a whole world out there and studying abroad is a great way to see it.
In the meantime, if you’re feeling nervous about what you’ve signed up for, I’d suggest looking up pictures of the place you’re going to in order to feel excited about it. Thinking about what you have to look forward to rather than what you could be worried about is pretty good advice for life in general but it’s definitely true for studying abroad, and there’s every chance the next year of your life will be the best yet!