Are you getting ready to study abroad? I’m one step ahead – I’ve just made the move to my new study location, Melbourne. Here’s my advice so far on settling in to a new place as an international student…
The journey between departing from one airport and arriving at the other is accompanied by lots of planning, dreams and hopes for a better future. The excitement of what is in the offing fuels your ambition and sets the stage for an unprecedented experience that you are going to cherish for the rest of your life.
The challenges of studying abroad
However, starting a new life when you study abroad is not as easy as it seems (reality check!). You might feel homesick, face problems in getting accustomed to the new culture, not find a roommate who matches your chemistry, be unable to maintain your budget, and maybe feel alienated when others around you are busy with their own lives.
Now I do not intend to disappoint or discourage you here, as this all is normal and part of the settling down phase. Yay! But you must know a few basic tools that should help you overcome initial hurdles when you travel to study abroad. Here are some of my suggestions:
1. Find student accommodation
Arranging student accommodation is your foremost responsibility. In my view it is better to arrange a temporary place to live before departing from your home. After all, you don’t want to get stuck at the airport without at least a drop-off point when you arrive. A lot of real estate websites can help in this regard. Moreover, you can also ask your educational institution to arrange something for you.
However, I would say do not go for a long-term arrangement initially. It is important because once you reach the new city you will be in a better position to decide which place best suits you. The decision can then be made keeping in view the distance from your institution and workplace and your needs to socialize etc.
2. Set up a bank account
Once you are done with organizing a place to live, the next step is to set up a bank account. Apply for a debit/credit card so as to avoid the hassle of carrying cash everywhere.
3. Get familiar with your routes
You’ll probably be able to choose from a range of transport options – tubes, trains, trams, buses or your own private vehicle – but before that you must get well acquainted with the routes. I started by taking a couple of initial visits around the city with a colleague, and then dared to make an individual trip the next time.
Was I successful? No! I got lost and wandered about the streets, but that had its own charm as I kept on exploring new places and eventually reached my destination after asking for directions from commuters and shopkeepers. Try this if you are adventurous, and if you are not adventurous: try it anyway!
4. Find a student job or volunteer
I would strongly suggest you try to find a student job while studying. This will not only help you earn some money, but also increase your confidence. If earning some casual cash is not your immediate concern, try to look for opportunities to volunteer. This will make you meet a lot of new people, test your abilities and expose you to different environments, which helps a lot in the settling down phase. It will also garnish your résumé.
5. Make new friends and be sociable
Well, if you are arranging accommodation, setting up your bank accounts, travelling all alone without any fear, and working too, you might not need to look at this section. You will probably already have made a lot of friends along the way, and if not you will make them soon. You have the potential and the personality to be with and among the people.
6. Be determined and persistent
The other side of the grass is always green. There will come times when you will feel low on remembering your loved ones, disheartened at not attaining any of your goals, extremely nervy on being unable to adjust to the new environment – but do not lose hope and curse yourself. Be determined and persistent. Failures and adversity are part (read ‘the spice’) of life. In some cases they are actually better than success because failures are more valuable teachers. Remember, the darkest hour is just before the dawn. Happy adjusting!
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