Adjusting to Life Abroad

Adjusting to Life Abroad

While studying abroad may not be for everyone, so many people say that their experiences abroad generated some of their best memories, adventures, and even friendships.  However, as much fun as it is traveling and living it up, there’s unsurprisingly some adjusting that needs to be done.  I’m only one month into my semester abroad, and as much fun as I’m having there’s been some things I’ve struggled with.   

1. The time difference

The obvious part is the whole jet lag thing – but that’ll wear off pretty quickly.  I wasn’t particularly bothered by my weird sleep schedule the first week or so, you manage and adjust.  What continues to mess with my is trying to communicate with my friends.  I’m from NJ and studying in Ireland right now, so I’m currently 5 hours ahead of most of my friends and family.  So even when I sleep in until 10 or 11, it’s only 5 or 6 am for them.  Or if I want to call my mom after work, I’m waiting until midnight to talk to her.  Sometimes it sucks, but you’ll figure it out and make it work.

 

2. Being alone

While abroad, you have the opportunity to meet tons of new people, but it is weird being away from your usual crew.  Sure, I’m friends with my roommates and I’ve met some new people, but nothing compares to your usual support system.  Usually, if my roommate isn’t around, I could just run over to someone’s dorm and have a shoulder to cry on, someone to vent to, etc.  I’ve realized that although I’ve made friends here, I don’t have my usual support.  Quite frankly, I don’t really have any words of wisdom regarding getting over this, because I’m still figuring it out myself.  Just take a deep breath, do something that normally calms you down, and see if you can relax and rebound.

3. Getting around

At home, you can hop in your car and drive to wherever you need to go.  And if you don’t have a car, you at least have an idea of how public transport works.  When you’re dropped into a different city, in a new country, with different modes of transportation, it’s easy to feel lost.  I guess this is a given, but it’s just nice to have some reassurance: the longer you’re there and use the public transport (or even walk around to get familiar with the area), the better you’ll get at using it.  You can also use sites like lonelyplanet.com or tripadvisor.com (or even blogs) to figure out the best ways to travel around a new city.  And at the end of the day, if you really have no clue where you are or what you’re doing, ask a local!

4. The pace of life

Growing up in the states, I feel like if I’m not up with the sun in the morning I’m wasting away, and if I don’t have everything checked off my to-do list by noon, I feel like I’m behind.  That’s a slight exaggeration – but it’s not too far off from how most Americans live their lives. Although I can only really speak for Ireland, more specifically Cork, things move at a slower pace here, and even slower on weekends.  Just remember to take your time – there’s no rush to get things done.  My roommates and I went on a day trip to a local town, and got there around 9 am on a Saturday, and we walked around aimlessly for at least an hour before shops and cafes started opening – it was a ghost town until right before noon.  It’s weird to think that it’s ok to wake up around 9 and still be able to have time before having to rush around.  At the same time, it’s nice to be able to just have some time to breathe.

While there’s plenty of other things that take adjustment and getting used to, these were some of the biggest things for me.  Obviously, the language will be a factor if you are studying in a country that does not speak English, but lucky for me I don’t need to worry about that in Ireland.  But regardless of the inevitable adjustments you’ll need to make, they’re worth it for the amazing experience.