Fall semester is about to start up and I’m going to be a junior! So exciting. That being said, so many of my wonderful friends are going abroad for the first time and have asked me for advice about living outside of the US. I’ve been lucky enough to live abroad for 10+ years so here’s my definitive list of do’s and don’ts while living abroad.
1. Do make new friends
I know going abroad with your crew intuitively feels like you hit the jackpot. It’s like Carrie Bradshaw going to Abu Dhabi in Sex In the City. However, you’re in a new country at a new school with a completely different culture! Making friends with the people who live and thrive there is not only your ticket to recommendations on the best spots around, but also in actually widening your horizon as living abroad is supposed to.
2. Do try things you may not want to
I was in Malaysia for the entirety of a summer almost a year ago. I love to work out, don’t get me wrong — but the only time I’ve been hiking was in Nepal and it was a challenge with no background in it. So, the prospect of going on a hike in Malaysia wasn’t particularly something I was interested in. The best way to experience life in a new country is to say yes, even if you don’t want to! You never know what you could find. I had one of the best meals of my life at the top of that hike!
3. Don’t bring your cultural superiority complex with you
I can’t say how many times I’ve met someone complaining about how much better it at home. That’s not the kind of attitude anyone appreciates and is going to seriously detract from the experiences you have and the connections you make. So yeah, the burgers aren’t as good as the ones in your hometown. But you can’t expect it to be. Coming into the expat lifestyle involves having a positive outlook that is non-judgemental.
4. Do take time out for yourself if you feel overwhelmed
It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of essentially building a new life. Take time out for self-care and call a loved one, read a book, stay in bed all day or whatever your ritual might be. Also, it’s important to emphasize prioritizing your health in general. Culture shock can be an awesome, eye-opening experience but if you’re feeling isolated or depressed, reach out to a friend and decompress.
5. Do learn the language
Or, as much of it as you can. My biggest regret while living in the United Arab Emirates was not learning how to speak Arabic. With all the time I spent in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, I could have easily been fluent by now. Learning the local language of where you’re at not only will help you while you’re there, it’s going to be a part of who you are long after you leave (if you keep practicing!) Not to mention, words lost in translation though unfortunate, can also be pretty funny.
The fact is that living abroad should feel different than going on a touristy visit. If it doesn’t, you’re doing something wrong! I know a lot of these things seem very basic, but the fact is I can’t emphasize them enough. Living as an expat is one of the most rewarding and joyful times ever so enjoy it while you can!