I remember my first night in Denmark. I was standing in my hostel room, looking out of the window onto Rådhuspladsen, and thinking to myself ‘What did I get myself into?’ After the days of research, packing, goodbyes, and a ten-hour flight, I was finally there and I had no idea what to do. Looking back now, I realized it was the little things that made my experience amazing and all it takes is finding them. So, what to do when you get to your new home? Here are a couple tips to help you start your adventure:
The first couple days in your new country are the most magical. Everything is new. Take the time to slow down and look around. Not only does it help you familiarize yourself with the city you’re in, but it also shows you the culture you will be living in for the foreseeable future. Plus, most places abroad have unbelievable architecture; so take advantage of the beauty of the city.
Insane suggestion? Not really. Some of my favorite finds while abroad were when I went off the main roads. I’m not saying you should get so lost that you end up in the next town. What I am recommending is to take a side street or a different route as you walk around. You never know what you’ll find. Sometimes the best places are off the beaten road. If you are really worried, take a small map so you are never truly lost.
Embrace the Culture
Everyone knows the old saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” That is exactly the mentality you must take when studying abroad. Most of the people who end up struggling when living abroad are those who don’t embrace the culture. Take advantage of your new experiences. Celebrate their holidays. Take public transportation. Eat their food. Relax and don’t sweat the small stuff.
The first day of orientation, two girls had a cow because the Danish intern informed them that all stores were closed on Sunday. They immediately went into a tirade about how it was stupid and how it would be unbelievable in the US. Remember, you get the opportunity to study abroad and live in a different culture. Try not to compare the country you’re in to your home country. Enjoy all that your new city has to offer, including the lifestyle. I know it is hard to do because you are always going to think about home. It’s what you’re familiar with. Just don’t let it affect your attitude and choices.
Be a Tourist
Most programs plan outings and trips the first few weeks for students. The program I attended had various tours around Copenhagen to choose from for free. If your program does not provide that, take the time before you leave to see the most iconic parts of the area you are in. Whether it’s climbing the Eiffel Tower, walking the halls of Westminster Abbey, or making the trek on The Wall of China, spend the time to see the wonders. Even though they may be cliché, they are popular and romanticized for a reason. Also, splurge and buy yourself a tacking shirt or the country’s flag. Sounds funny, but after I got home from Denmark, I realized I bought everyone something but myself.
Before you realize it, your time in your new country will come to an end. Somewhere along the way, you seize seeing yourself as a study abroad student but as a part of the community and its people. It becomes a part of your identity. Enjoy it!