Before embarking on the adventure of studying abroad you will surely have some ideas about the country and culture that you're going to face during your journey. My experience is that besides rewarding moments you will learn about yourself and the world. Therefore, I would like to share with all those who are planning to study abroad the lessons I’ve learned:
1. You’re not going to understand it all
If you are studying in a country with a different language than yours, at the beginning you will feel a bit out of place and sometimes a bit stupid when you do not understand or when you’re not able to say exactly what you're thinking. Don’t worry, you are neither the first nor the last to feel that way, wanting to express something but being unable to do so. My advice is that you try despite of making mistakes, moreover, surround yourself with people who have a better language level than yours and ask them to correct you when you make mistakes. Learn fast by reading and talking as much as you can to native speakers, and try to reduce the conversations with your family and friends in your native language.
2. Absorb the culture around you
Despite the cultural shock you'll have the first few days (new food, language, beliefs, traditions and ways of doing things), my recommendation is that you observe and learn from this new environment. Do not cling to your life in your home city, instead, take this new opportunity to learn from it and grow as a person. One of my biggest learning was to understand different cultures, be more flexible with my beliefs and points of view and to find out that although some people can be very different from you they can become your very best friends.
3. You’ll do things you never imagined you could do
When you live abroad, you understand the value of things, how easy is to travel and see new cities. You will try to find a source of funding for these activities and why not, get a job. My advice is that besides giving you a way of funding your trips and entertainment activities, a job will be the best way to improve your language skills, your confidence and make friends. It is true that most students will find a job as a waiter/waitress, working at supermarkets, department stores, and events such as concerts, exhibitions and sports tournaments. In my opinion, I recommend you to contact a recruitment agency specialised in events and prepare yourself for learning new skills that will help you in the future like time management, how to be more organized, social skills and off course to appreciate your home and the value of money.
4. Everything is temporary
The first few days would be tough and sometimes you will want to go back home and leave your project. Remember, that everything is temporary and after a month, you will feel more comfortable, make friends and see the advantages of the city you inhabit. During the first weeks, get to know the city, have fun after classes with your friends and socialize with your classmates, all of this will help you to not get homesick.
5. Do not plan it all
Although before traveling you are going to plan the duration of your course, chose the destination, activities you will like to do while there, etc., you must be open to changes and unexpected events. It may be that at the end of your course you will have the opportunity to extend your studies or study a new language in a nearby country/city. Go with an open mind and if you find new opportunities along the way, take them. Remember that you will meet people from around the world. The opportunities are there; take them when they find you!
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned during my time studying abroad is how much you can get to know yourself. Not only you’ll find out what your limits are, but you’ll also face your fears, develop new skills and the end you’ll come back being more resourceful, adaptable and mature. My advice is to always have the courage to take on new challenges, push yourself to the limit, both in your academic and extra-curricular activities, take part of student groups, sports teams, get to know your teachers and classmates and never isolate yourself.
To sum up, this will be an experience you'll probably have once in your life time. Take every opportunity to learn and enjoy. Without a doubt, you’ll return home as someone who makes better decisions, who effectively communicates ideas and someone with a better understanding about what is happening around the world.