It’s one thing to plan your brains out for your study abroad experience and a totally other thing to get settled after you’ve arrived. Once the initial culture shock has subsided and you’ve unpacked all your belongings, it’s time to get to know your new surroundings and meet the neighbours.
Get familiar with your city
In the first few days you’ll quickly be able to find the nearest grocery shop, laundromat, bank machine and drug store by walking around the streets nearest your new place. Then it’s time to familiarize yourself with the city on a whole. Just don’t try to tackle it at one time, break it up into boroughs or districts and get to know one at a time. Imagine trying to see all of London in a weekend (it’s impossible, I tried). Use the internet and apps like Google Maps and foursquare to check out cool places to eat for cheap, go out, get good coffee and shop. Read some reviews because the closest or the top-rated spot isn’t always the best.
An easy alternative to the internet is asking locals. Chances are that you know at least one person in your new city, or at least one person who has lived there before (unless you’re moving to bore-ville, the capital city of “the middle of nowhere”) who can give you some tips. Why not try the whole “I just moved here, do you know…” line at the coffee shop or grocery store while you’re in the queue. Works miracles, I promise.
Making friends away from home
Once you know your new city like the back of your hand, it’s time to make some friends so that you can enjoy it! The first people you’ll meet are probably other students studying abroad thanks to the great programs set up at universities for students to meet other students. But you can also meet a lot of great people outside of school. Have a hobby? Why would you put it down just because you’re not at home anymore? Use sites like Meetup.com to find groups meeting where you are with similar interests. Couchsurfing.org is also a great way to connect with other expats and locals as well.
If you know someone already, you’re ahead of the game. Accept any invitations of theirs to hang out with their friends, that way you can meet even more people. Make sure you return the favor though and invite them out with you as well. It goes both ways. Most of all you need to take initiative and put yourself out there.
Building a new life abroad takes time so don’t worry if after a couple of weeks you’re still stiting at home on a Friday night with only left-over pasta dinner and a downloaded movie to keep you company. It takes time but the more positive energy and effort you put into it, the faster you’ll get results!
Studying abroad now? What was the easiest way for you to make new friends and get to know your new surroundings?
Images: Analog Photos, / Flickr cc.