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Fitting in on your year abroad


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Going on your year abroad is one of the best parts of doing a degree, but it can also be the most daunting. Whichever country you’re going to, the culture will be different from your own and in order to feel settled in your new city, it’s a good idea to try and fit in with the local culture to really make the most of it.

1. Language barriers

Some students will be spending time abroad to improve their language skills and there’s no better way to practice what you’ve learned. However confident you felt speaking in a classroom with your friends, going out to another country and speaking to locals is a whole other ball game! Make the most of every opportunity to speak to locals, don’t be afraid and don’t just speak English!

2.     When in Rome…

Try out some of the local cuisine. There’s no point going halfway around the world and then eating nothing but the McVities you sneaked into your suitcase. Find out which dishes are typical of your area and give them a go. You never know, you might even find your new favourite meal!

3.     Be sociable

Making friends is always difficult, particularly in another country, but it’s key to fitting in to the culture. Not only will your new friends be able to tell you all the best places to eat and shop, but you’ll quickly find yourself as part of a whole new social group to enjoy your year abroad with.

4.     Get to know your surroundings

It’s easy to feel lost in a new place, so take some time to get to know your new surroundings. If you can make it to all the places you need to get to without having to use a map, you’ll feel a lot more like you fit in.

5.     Appreciate the differences

A lot of fitting in is to do with your mentality. If you approach your new situation feeling closed off and not ready to integrate you’re going to have a very long year. Approach everything with an open mind. Try new things according to the local way and you’ll find that you get out just as much as you put in.

6.     Do the research

You can be prepared for the culture shock before you go and take steps to avoid it. Do as much research as you can on the country, its customs and culture and be prepared to join in with them, especially if the culture is very different from your own. This will soften the initial blow of realising you’re going to be using a hole in the ground as your toilet for the next year.

7.     Don’t rush it

You’re not going to feel like a local the second you step off the plane, it’s going to take time, but don’t let that get you down! It’s perfectly OK to feel a bit lonely, or to miss your own culture. Be patient and you will eventually get there. Take little steps and before you’ll feel like you’ve lived there all your life.

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