Moving abroad to study might seem even scarier. You can do loads of research on your destination, but you will only really know what it is like once you are there. And it may be a (bit of a) shock. Use these tips to prepare your move, to help you cope with a culture clash and to deal with occasional homesickness.
Do your research
Yes, even though you will not get to know a place until you are actually there, it is important to come prepared. This may help with first impressions. Internet helps a lot: look up the customs, the particularities and google the street views and perhaps some time lapses. Check the things that you should take care of soon after arriving and how to go about it. Also, talk to people who have already been to your destination. They can help you to form your expectations. You can address the alumni network of your (future) institution or ESN. You can also ask friends that may have visited your destination country.
Locate supermarkets and restaurants
In a whole new, challenging situation, people usually just want to feel like they’re at home. So make sure you take some things to make your new house feel like home. Also, be sure to locate the supermarkets and stores that sell ingredients from your homeland. Nothing screams “home” like a homecooked meal. Europe is incredibly diverse, its population made up of many different cultures and backgrounds. Odds are that there are specialized stores which sell the spices you are used to, or may even import your local cheese and vegetables. For instance, you can buy maple syrup and paneer in most European supermarkets nowadays. Moreover, there are many specialised or fusion restaurants in Europe, offering dishes from all over the world. Visiting these can help you to find a bit of your own culture in a new place.
Let it wash over you
Overall, there is not much else you can do about a culture clash than just let it wash over you. Many things will be different when you move abroad. Some you will get used to easily, some take time to adjust to. It helps to actively engage in the new culture: open a bank account, join a local sports team or find a part time job. It will probably all be different than you are used to at home and at times it may annoy you, but the reward is worth it. Other things you will experience more often: cold weather and short days in the Scandinavian countries, thousands of bicycles in the Netherlands or siesta in the Mediterranean countries. These things will amaze you at first, but you will get used to them.
Sometimes, the way people interact with each other in your destination country can be different from what you’re used to at home. Asking questions may seem a bit tricky at times. Some countries are really open and direct, whereas others are more hierarchical and formal. But nonetheless, it is important that you ask questions. There are always people willing to help and explain things. Ask your classmates or other international students why things happen the way they do, how to interact with the teacher or whatever questions you have. Don’t be afraid. Even though it will not always be easy, in the end you will have gained an invaluable experience and a knack for adapting to new environments.
Are you currently studying in Europe and do you have additional tips about dealing with a culture clash? Let us know by sending us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.