Once your exchange finally comes around, it can feel like you’ve been planning and waiting for years and in the excitement and stress of last minute preparations it’s easy to forget about actually arriving and the realities of settling into your temporary home.
As exciting as an exchange is, arriving and settling in can be hard. As someone who has just recently gone through this turbulent time, I’ve gathered some tips and advice, some I used to help me adjust and others I wish I’d known before I left.
Looking up and planning how you’re going to get from the airport to your accommodation ahead of time will help you avoid getting lost without phone data like I did. You’ll be dead tired, so even if you have google maps, it will be a relief to have a rough idea of where you’re actually supposed to be going.
2. Homesickness will get better.
You may have heard people say you’ll be too busy to be homesick, but if you’re prone to homesickness like me, you might be a tad doubtful of this advice.
The truth is most people get homesick to some degree. You might be horribly homesick like I was or you might only miss home a little. The most comforting piece of advice my international student friends have given me is that it will get better and I know from experience now that no matter how horrid you feel, it gets better. Maybe not right away but each week will be easier than the next and it will be SO worth it in the end.
If you are homesick, make sure you leave your room. Everything feels better once you’re out exploring your new city or getting involved in university welcome events.
4. Unpack ASAP.
Having all your stuff unpacked and put away will help you feel more settled in your new home quicker, will help with homesickness and is one less thing you have to do once study starts.
There’s a lot to buy and organise in the first few weeks, not to mention you probably have welcome events to attend and study at some point. Each university operates differently, some slower, some faster, and it might take you awhile to adapt whatever your normal uni routine is to your new uni. Just remember that there are people at the university who have done this hundreds of times before and are there to help you out, if you need them.
6. Culture shock is real.
I know people warn you about this but it’s worth being aware of as it’s likely to happen at some point. Homesickness can play a part in culture shock, I know I was homesick right away and the fact that everyone spoke in odd accents made me feel alienated. It can be overwhelming, but it fades as you adjust to your surroundings and you come to love those things that annoyed you at first.
“Exchange is such a roller-coaster experience and can seem quite daunting. Exchange gives you the opportunity to learn and grow, all this is part of the crazy, scary, exciting adventure you’re about to embark on!”