The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
The opportunity to live abroad is an exciting, confusing, lonely, beautiful one. You have the chance to discover new cultures, meet new people and broaden your horizons. Any attempt to articulate the emotions you feel while abroad is pretty much futile.
I am currently living abroad for the first time in my life, studying at a university in Lisbon, Portugal, and I am incredibly grateful to have this opportunity. Even though I have not necessarily been in the country for a long time, it has been an experience of continuous growth so far.
Even if you do not leave your home country, I still think that we can all relate to experiences, at some point on our lives, when life feels completely new and different, and — given that UCL is such a global university — I am sure that many of our fellow students have gone through a range of emotions and adventures in their own time while studying in London. So, I am presenting here some tips, or at least some thoughts, that I have gathered over my past few months abroad, particularly for those of you who are either also living abroad or dream of the experience.
- Try not to compare your experiences with others
As always, social media is such a double-edged sword in relation to this matter, because, as while on the one hand, it is so nice to see your friends sharing and enjoying their experiences abroad, this can simultaneously provoke unhealthy comparisons. Similarly, hearing the phrase ‘you’re going to have the best time ever’ from those around you, or daydreaming about a whirlwind year abroad romance, can sometimes build up unnecessary, unspoken and, ultimately, irrelevant pressures within you. The most essential and fulfilling feeling is being true to yourself, because, at the end of the day, who are you trying to please if not yourself? Living abroad can mark really profound, and sometimes intangible, moments of growth — comparisons have the potential to stunt this growth. Our experiences, from the things we eat, to the people we meet, are completely unique to each and every one of us.
- Talk with people who are also going or have gone through similar experiences
Everyone goes through rough days, and the adjustment process can be particularly tough, so being open about this can help you and others to honour these emotions. It is okay not to be okay. If you are feeling this way, someone else in a similar position is bound to feel the same way at some point, and you can help each other just by reaching out to show that you are not, and never will be alone. Time and honest conversations definitely helped me to feel better and more settled (a difficult lesson for my hyper-present Scorpio and Aries placements!). Writing in a journal can also really help to process your emotions in a more personal manner. Also, if your loved ones are able to visit you, you should definitely urge them to come because it can be so lovely to explore with others, and their visits can help you see your city or country through a new, refreshing perspective.
- Do the things that make you happy
I spoke to a friend who said that doing art in their own time really helped them to settle into their life abroad, and I know for me that listening to music in the park really helped me to feel calmer when I felt that the experience was becoming overwhelming. Self-love and care are incredibly important, and making sure that you are taking care of yourself emotionally by doing all the things that positively fulfill your mind and soul; whether that’s finding a cute cafe, reading a novel, or re-watching your favourite series, these can help you to feel less shaky in a time that can be isolating and remind you that there is beauty and joy in the little things.
- Push yourself as much as you can
The prospect of pushing yourself can be incredibly daunting and your biggest obstacle. There will be surprises and your experiences abroad may be completely different to how you imagined it would be. Go with an open mind and remember why you wanted to experience this in the first place! You may never choose or get the chance to live abroad again in your life so try to seize the opportunities that are offered to you. If you have the opportunity to do this and you’re interested but scared, I highly recommend that you try because you are capable of doing whatever you want to do.
Original photos by Angelica Meneely