More questions every first-time study abroad student has
Hooray, you arrived at your destination! We hope that everything went smoothly and your new home away from home is as awesome as you imagined it would be. However, there may or may not still be a few questions left: Like, how do I get to school on the first day? What do I do if I’m jetlagged? And can my parents come visit? To make sure you can focus on the exciting parts of the trip – like expanding your vocabulary, having fun with friends, and using the hashtag #EFMoment a lot – we collected some questions that we know a lot of students have while they’re abroad. Then, we asked our study abroad experts for all the answers and put together another edition of our handy study abroad Q&A. Before reading on, check out Part 1 to learn all about how to get the most out of your trip abroad:
1. How do I get to school on the first day?
This is one of the first things you should ask your homestay parents, roommates, or residence staff. They can tell you which bus or train to take, where to get off, and how to get to the actual building. In case you don’t get a local SIM card right away and are not sure if you can get Wi-Fi, just make a print screen or a print-out of the maps, and you’re good to go (and get there). For the first day of school, we recommend that you plan enough time – everything will be new and might take a bit more time. If you have the chance, why not do a dry run? In case you have some time off before you go to school, just check out the route and practice commuting.
2. What happens if I don’t understand anything?
Depending on your initial language level, it might take some time to get used to hearing nothing but the foreign language all day – but that’s exactly what will help you learn. Having a dictionary handy can be helpful at the beginning. The host family and staff at the school are used to being surrounded by people with all kinds of language levels, so they will be able to speak slower and use basic vocabulary if necessary.
3. How do I get an internet connection?
All schools have free Wi-Fi, and you will get the login information on your first day. Outside of school, at your accommodation, you need to check with your homestay family or the residence staff to find the Wi-Fi network and password. Some homestay families charge a fee for the internet, so make sure you check beforehand. In a lot of destinations, there will be coffee shops or other public spaces with free Wi-Fi. Just ask any staff members or fellow students about how to connect.
4. How do I stay in touch with my family back home?
Most apps and services that you use on your phone – WhatsApp, Snapchat, Skype, email, messenger services, and whatever else there is – can be used with Wi-Fi only, which means that you can use it at school or any place that offers free Wi-Fi. Make sure you check with your phone provider if they have a deal for using your phone abroad without being overcharged – if not, the bill might get really high really fast. It’s recommended to keep your phone in airplane mode if you only use Wi-Fi so you will not be charged in case your phone tries to find reception abroad. Consider getting a phone or a SIM card at your destination – you can get a prepaid card and have control over your expenses. Remember that you can also use your computer to write emails, Skype, or chat.
5. What if I don’t like the food?
We know that it’s always a little weird to eat different food than what you’re used to, but this is part of the experience. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover awesome local specialties that you won’t be able to live without? Our tip is to try everything before you say you don’t like something. Host families are usually experienced at catering toward different tastes while making sure the students experiences all of the local flavors. Cafeterias always have a variety of foods, but we recommend trying as many of the local specialties as possible. Food with friends is one of the best ways to explore a new culture, after all. If you have allergies, make sure you always ask about ingredients and check with your teacher so that they can teach you all the words you need to know for a safe culinary experience.
6. How do I make new friends?
The good thing about studying abroad is that pretty much everyone at the school is in the same boat: Everyone arrives in a new country where they don’t know anyone, so your fellow students are probably also a little nervous about finding friends. But finding new friends is easier than you think – just start talking to people, join them for activities, and be your awesome, funny, and open-minded self. If you’re still worried: Your classmates are a great starting point for friendships – you spend quite a few hours together, after all, and homework is a great bonding experience. (And so much more fun if you don’t have to do it alone.)
7. What can I do about jet lag?
Guess what, we have a blog post that you can read while the jet lag is keeping you up at night. Try to get into your new rhythm as soon as possible – if you arrive in the afternoon, try not to go to bed immediately but explore your new home away from home on a walk. The sun and the fresh air will help your body adjust. Drink a lot of water and eat light meals. And don’t get stressed out over jet lag – it’s said to take about one day per hour of difference to adjust to the new time zone.
8. What if I lose my travel documents?
Before you depart, make sure you have an electronic copy of all of your important documents – you can either scan them or take a picture with your phone. Then, send them to your own email address and to someone close to you who stays at home. That way, they can help you out in case you can’t access your documents. If you lose your passport, contact the embassy or consulate at your destination, so they can help you get a new passport and figure out any visa issues. If you lose your plane ticket (which will most likely be digital anyway), get in touch with your sales office or the airline.
9. What if I get homesick?
Feeling homesick happens to the best of us. Sometimes, we just want to sleep in our own bed and eat the food that we always eat. It usually helps to indulge in your homesickness a bit – buy a tub of ice cream and watch your favorite movie with your friends back home over Skype, for example. But then, you need to distract yourself: Keeping busy helps against homesickness, so make sure you participate in activities and explore your new city with new friends.
10. Can my friends and family come visit?
Yes, your family and friends can come and visit you abroad. They won’t be able to stay at your homestay family’s house or your residence, but there will be plenty of accommodation options at your destination.
11. What if I love it so much that I don’t want to go back home?
You could just add a few more weeks to your study abroad trip. Or you just return to your dream destination as soon as possible.