When you are going on a study abroad, many people around would advise you to focus on your study – this is the most relevant – however, there are too many fields around your study that can make that experience more pleasurable, fun and safe.
The fundamental needs – and I am particularly referring to physiological, safety, belong and love from Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ model – are to be met but you can transform the needs into opportunities to meet new people, connect with new friends, find a job or even keep your lifestyle in another country.
Food is one of the most important needs in our daily life. You can try to keep your dietary habits. It’s also good advice to try new food because you will be surprised by the number of options and flavours offered by each country. A good option is to ask some friends or classmates for options to go for lunch or dinner together. Accept suggestions and be open to explore new things. If you like to cook, this is a good opportunity to learn about the culture, how to use ingredients differently, exchange recipes, go on a food shopping trip to share a good moment as well as to know the markets and what they have. This is good to find out where to source your ingredients locally but also try new things you don’t know you would like.
Being far away from your country may make you feel alone. This is because things and processes are unfamiliar to you, including opening a bank account, renting an apartment, subscribing to a data plan, etc but for that, I recommend some tips to help you keep calm and enjoy during this adapting phase.
One thing I tried is, before I arrive in this new destination, I try to find some people from my country in the social network, and among my friends and family circles. To do so, use Facebook, Instagram, and other instant messaging apps to create and be part of a group that shared some commonalities with you. You will soon find that the ‘wisdom from the crowd’ can help you with doing practical tasks, e.g. making a booking for an appointment, getting around the city with public transports, sorting out some paperwork, etc. The main idea is to avoid being alone and solicit help or support whenever needed. One of the best bits of advice given is to keep calm because we can neither the first nor the only one to handle certain circumstances, even in most foreign countries.
Barbecue with Chileans in Hong Kong celebrating the independence day of Chile
Along this line, you can create social network groups to share tips with your classmates because many of them may face the same situation. The idea is to create a support circle for you and your surrounding people. You can create a birthday timetable with your classmates or also with new friends. In this way, you will always have something to do.
At Chimelong Safari Park, Guangzhou, China - a trip with classmates to the Mainland
If you do sports or activity, you don’t need to wait until you arrive to check whether this new home has places to continue your training. Check the university sports teams, sports centres, and also communities close to your new home. In my case, I’m an inline roller-skater, and before my arrival, I checked the skate rinks close to my home. You can also check if there are championships or competitions to enjoy and take part in – this is really interesting to see the differences and similarities in other countries in the same sport or activity. Personally, I am interested in how people teach and learn this sport and it is awesome how you can connect this way by learning from others. You may even represent your country in your sport and have a meaningful experience out of it.
Of course, family and relatives are important. Thanks to the social network, you can always talk with them by texting or on video calls. In my personal experience, I recommend to bring some meaningful physical objects with you so as to feel your family and friends far away remain close. For example, I always keep an analogue watch with the time in my country. This reminds me of what they are doing and also what time I can call and talk to them. Try to schedule a time loosely to talk with different relatives and friends to nurture these relationships. Put some pictures at your desk or in your room, share a video call when you are enjoying a moment or when they are in a meaningful moment. Even small gestures like these will help cultivate your own emotional stability and at the same time feed the relationships.
I’m not an expert in one of these topics but I always try to find the best way in social situations. These are things that have been working for me and other people I know, and I thought they will be useful for you.
All images by author.
This blog post is written by Daniel Alejandro Munoz Prieto, a current student studying in the Interaction Design (MDes) programme. Daniel came from Santiago, Chile.
MDes Talks is a series of blog posts produced by the student media team for prospective students who are considering graduate education in design. The student authors write on what it is like and what it means – to be a student (again), to live in an unfamiliar culture, to meet new people, to study in a different education system, and to broaden horizons. Prospective students are welcome to connect with our student authors to learn more.