1. Contact a local expert
Whether you are studying abroad through a company or directly enrolling in a program from a foreign university, you need a local expert to consult while in a foreign country. It will be an important step in making you feel comfortable in your new surroundings.
If you are studying abroad through a company, they can arrange airport transfer upon arrival or even provide you with a local tutor or coordinator. They can be contacted in advance and met in the new host country to help you get your bearings.
If you are self-studying abroad, you can still contact a local expert in advance. Ask the host university if they have staff who are responsible for helping international students or if there are local advisors you can contact. Ask your family and friends if they know anyone in the host country. The world is small, and you never know who has acquaintances abroad.
Even if you are not at all familiar with the local expert you will contact upon arrival, you will still feel much more comfortable having contact in case of questions or an emergency.
2. Exchange money for local
The same rule applies no matter where you go. You must carry enough cash with you as a reserve. Even though many countries around the world accept credit cards or have ATMs, cash is the best “airbag” for traveling abroad.
In addition to a small supply of US dollars to keep for emergencies, you will also need local currency. Don’t rely solely on ATMs or credit cards as cash is still the preferred payment method in many countries around the world. You can purchase local currency from a bank in your hometown or exchange some of the money at the airport after you get off the plane.
Pro tip: Airport exchange offices charge a high commission, but sometimes this is the most convenient option.
During your first days abroad, you will likely have quite a few start-up expenses, including food, a SIM card, or other unexpected expenses. It doesn’t hurt to have a cash cushion for all these unexpected and unforeseen expenses. Plus, you’ll be more comfortable using a taxi until you’ve mastered the public transport system (which can sometimes feel like a major achievement). We recommend that you exchange enough money for a week, which will give you enough time to get comfortable and find the nearest ATM.
3. Call home
It’s tempting to immediately start reveling in your newfound independence abroad, but don’t ignore your family at home. Your loved ones will want to know that you have reached your new destination safely, so try to contact them and let them know that you have arrived safe and sound.
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Whether you choose to connect on your smartphone or go to the internet hotspot at the university, a short message/text/hello makes a big difference to them. You will probably also be interested in sharing your first impressions from abroad.
4. Adapt to local time
The jet lag can make the first few days in a new country a little rough. As you move from one time zone to another, your body and mind must readjust, and this can be quite an unpleasant process. Depending on the time difference, you will likely feel weak and disoriented. Physical weakness may also be felt in the body. And some travelers experience stomach problems.
Keep in mind that jet lag is a temporary phenomenon. You now live in a new time zone and must adjust your internal clock accordingly. Try your best to start living in local time. Keep working, keep moving, go out, and stay awake until at least 8 pm local time for the first few days. After a week, you will feel normal again.
5. Unpack and start settling in
An important step towards making a new place feel more familiar is arranging the living space in such a way that it feels like home. You should not store everything in a suitcase, even if you are only here for a few days. Just unpack!
Amazingly, such a simple action can help you settle in faster in a new place. Organize your living space and put in a few keepsakes, photos, or decorations that will make you feel happier and more comfortable.
Don’t be surprised if you have to head to the store to buy a few items you forgot. Usually, at home, the importance of things like hangers or extra beds is underestimated. Once everything is organized and in place, you will be proud of your new space and feel at home. Plus, you’ll push that annoying feeling of homesickness out the door and walk out into the world with more confidence than ever.
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