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No Worries Wednesday - Adjusting to your new environment

Author: Alissa Ward & Chris Yeast

No Worries Wednesday is a series where blog contributors speak to a topic which they were worried before they participated in an education abroad experience. Leaving all that you are surrounded by and comfortable with can be challenging or even frightening. This series will hopefully dispel myths and ease worries for students who are considering taking part in exchanges, field schools or other international learning opportunities!

 

Participating in an education abroad program whether it’s a field school, exchange, or internship, can be an incredibly exciting experience. That said, putting yourself in a situation where you are potentially alone and learning a brand new environment can be a big (and scary) step! Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert this may be applicable to you, but don’t let the fear of being alone stop you from such an incredible opportunity. See my steps below for how to eliminate the worries that may surround you with being alone in a foreign country.

 

1. Other students are having similar experiences to you

The first thing I realized was that I wasn’t the only one who felt alone as other had just arrived. Through new student orientations and activities it was easy to meet other students who were in a similar situation to me and were also looking to connect with other students. Having someone to share similar experiences with, such as what you are feeling in this new country, can be incredibly important for your mental health, so just be open to those you are surrounded by and introduce yourself to some until you find those you click with! Truly, the best way to overcome feeling alone is to create a support system in your host country and you never know who might be your new best friend!

  

2. Learn to manage situations alone

It is valuable to have friends to rely on as a support system. However, I found being able to have an afternoon to myself or tackling specific situations alone could be empowering, as well. When I realized that I could overcome obstacles that I relied heavily on my support system back home for, I felt incredibly accomplished. I also realized where my boundaries really were, when I could push them and when I needed to ask for help. In addition, when you give yourself the time to just be present with yourself, you allow yourself time to reflect on your experiences. In times of solitude or self-care, you may realize new things about yourself that you never had before.

 

3. Use resources available to you

Similarly to VIU, depending on your education abroad program selected, the Education Abroad department can help locate and provide resources whether they are through VIU, your host institution or through other sources. One thing I found really helpful was establishing regular times to connect with my friends at home while I was away.

 

I found taking part in an education abroad experience to be extremely rewarding. While I was worried about feeling alone, I met many great people during my time away. It was an amazing learning experience in both academic and personal ways. And to this day, my Facebook news feed is a mixture of languages due to all of the people I made connections with!

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