Studying overseas is generally depicted as an adventure of a lifetime, an ongoing party (with some studying on the side), and what will undoubtedly be one of the greatest experiences of one’s life. I am not going to attempt to dispute these perceptions, because frankly, I believe them to be true. However, what is often discounted is the considerable amount of uncertainty that study abroad students undergo.
A new country. A new culture. A new university. A new home.
These distinct changes are destined to have an impact on one’s life. Particularly for those fellow introverts out there – it can prove quite difficult when everyday comforts and familiarities are suddenly removed. Such feelings of anxiety or self-doubt are by no means a negative thing, merely a natural human reaction to a significant a shift of environments. From my few short weeks of experience, it is safe to say, you certainly are not alone.
So, never fear!
Here are 5 basic tips to surviving the emotional whirlwind of the first few weeks at QMUL:
#1 The day of arrival
The first day on campus will comprise of a range of emotions. Walking into your bare dorm room may evoke questions along the lines of “Why did I do this to myself?” You will later discover that approximately fifty other study abroad students were also asking themselves this same question. Remember that you are not the only one feeling this way, and take comfort in this fact.
#2 Settling in
Taking the time to unpack, organise and personalise your room can make a huge difference. For example, putting up photos of friends, loved ones, pets, posters, or adding a small plant to the room definitely helps. When in doubt – go to Primark (one short tube stop away from Mile End).
As an Aussie, I was warned of the constant rain and brutally cold weather that characterises London. This shouldn’t deter anyone from choosing London for study abroad. It doesn’t rain that often! Granted, it is cold, but the sun does make regular appearances – see campus photo below!
#3 Making friends
Making new friends in a foreign setting can be somewhat daunting. Be sure to participate in the study abroad events organised by the university, such as the River Thames Cruise. It is a great way to get to know people and see some amazing London sights! Once again, everyone is in the same boat (pun intended), so conversation with a peer should be easy. Remember to be patient and open to meeting a range of new people, it will be far less stressful than you think to find friends. This will make all the difference.
#4 Just ask
For study abroad students, particularly if you are the quiet type, it can be difficult to seek help or ask questions. QMUL has an incredible support network and staff who are approachable, friendly and more than happy to help where possible. If you are unsure – just ask!
QMUL is in a fantastic location in the East End. Download apps such as Citymapper, they will become your best friend when travelling throughout London and beyond – plus it saves an awkward/confusing conversation with a stranger. Similarly, travelling in groups will make the experience of getting lost amusing as opposed to terrifying, so find like-minded travel companions (and don’t let them go!)
While the first week of studying abroad will be exhausting, daunting, frightening (insert copious amounts of relevant synonyms here) – it will be okay. You don’t have to be an outgoing person to make friends and feel as though you belong in your new university. It may take time, but it will happen.
Before long, the once idealistic views of the ‘life changing experience’ that is study abroad will eventuate into an exciting new reality. It is never an easy task to embrace change, but I promise you, this one will be worth it.