I left The Netherlands 4 weeks ago to go study in Madrid. Now I have to add that I booked my ticket 3 weeks to early, because I was planning to do a language course but accidentally signed up too late. Shame on me… Anyway this stuff happens, so you have to deal with it. I was lucky enough that my mom joined me on the first week.
In this post I am just going to give you some tips for if you are going to study abroad on your own. If you know absolutely no one in the country or at your university.
1. Go outside
Now this might seem super basic, duhh of course you need to go outside. But it can be scary to go on your own to see something you’re not even sure if it’s going to be fun. Just grab yourself a map at a touristic information office and wander off. Besides, if you go on your own you can decide when to stop for a drink, something to eat or when you want to go home.
2. Talk to your family
Text with your family, Skype with your family. If you didn’t have such an interesting day, maybe you can hear about theirs. And if you’re feeling a little down and you have no one to complain to, there is always your family! They can probably even point out what is good about the situation of which you thought completely sucks. Your family are the people on which you can rely, so use your fall net!
3. Do stuff with your roommates
Having new roommates is always tricky, but it’s better to just jump in and introduce yourself and ask a lot of questions so you know what are the rules of the house. It is also nice to organize something that you can do monthly or weekly together. For example, me and my roommates decided to go to the cinema every month. By the way, I am so excited to see the new Bridget Jones movie, which we are going to see next week!
4. Look for a local student/expat organisation
Organisation might seem a little weird, but they can really help you out with the basics and get you settled. If you’re a student it can be ESN and they will probably be introduced at the first day of school, but before you leave you can already check for a Facebook-page to see what kind of events they are going to organize. For me it was Citylife Madrid. They helped me out with a map of the city, a Spanish SIM-card and they also organize events and even trips. So, I would advice you to do some research on Facebook.
5. Ask, ask and ask
If you want to get somewhere you will have to ask questions to people you don’t know. Now, I can understand if you might feel awkward, especially if you’re not in an English speaking country. Turns out, most of the people that you will ask something even if they don’t speak English they will try to understand you with body language. If you are at a university, probably the majority of the students will speak English. Today for example I asked a girl where I could find a copy-shop and she explained it to me and started talking about universities etc. and it was so nice. If you just ask and talk to people you will make friends.
6. Find a hobby
You will have moments on your own where you have absolutely nothing to do and you don’t feel like travelling places or going out with friends. I find it always nice to have something to do that doesn’t require a lot of stuff. Currently I am creating a Happy Planner, it is a planner which you can completely customize yourself with stickers, washi-tape etc. Or it can be drawing, writing, reading, etc.
7. Visit places nearby
If you are studying abroad, it is likely that you’re studying in a city. See what kind of places are nice to visit on the weekends. It doesn’t have to be far, just try google maps to see what is in reach within a 100 km. It can be a frightening idea to go all by yourself, but if you just buy a ticket and force yourself to go, you can find out how nice it can be. It is actually very relaxing that you don’t have to take another person’s interest into account. You can go wherever you want and on your own pace.
8. Keep in touch with your friends
If you’re being abroad for a long time and your friends might not have the opportunity to come visit you, it is important to stay in touch. I have learned from experience that you can grow apart if you don’t appreciate and put effort in relationships when you’re abroad. So text, Skype, send cards, because who doesn’t like to receive a postcard?! And make sure that you stay in contact with each other. That way it doesn’t feel like you are strangers to each other when you come back home.