So you’re planning on studying abroad or at least considering it…
If you’re anything like me you’re pretty excited at the opportunity but can’t help thinking “[insert location here] is so far away!” (I am approximately 7,579 miles from my home in Pittsburgh right now!) No need to worry, studying abroad is well worth traveling the distance. And in case you’re still worried, I’ve got a few tips for how to cope with the distance!
#1. Know your chocolate source! Haha, we asked some Americans working in Namibia their tips and this was what one of the women said. She was half joking, but I’m not. I’ve eaten more chocolate here than I do at home. Also, Cadbury seems to have the chocolate monopoly here and they have so many delicious chocolate bars! (I recommend coconut and cashew)
#2. Know and love the people you’re living with. Being in one house as a living-learning community means I constantly have 22 fellow students to vent to when necessary. It occasionally means conflict as well, but that’s inevitable. There are plenty of programs where you don’t live in a big community like this, so I can’t speak from experience, but I suggest making some close friends who you can go to when you’re having a rough day. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to cope all on my own. And I can’t imagine what living in this house would have been like if I hadn’t bothered to get to know everyone.
#3. Skype! I’m sure you all know this by now, but it’s a wonderful little invention that allows you to talk to your family and friends…for free! And if you’re lucky enough to have decent internet, you may even be able to video chat. (Don’t always depend on that in Namibia) There’s always the good old telephone, too. But skype is just a nice step up. Especially for your cheap college friends who you don’t expect to pay for a calling card.
#4. Bring DVDs. I didn’t do this, but luckily some other people did. Sometimes you just need a taste of your favorite movie or TV show. (Gilmore Girls) They’re also good for nights spent in when you don’t want to do your work!
#5. Become familiar with your surroundings. For me, getting to know my way around town at least a little makes me feel more at home. That way you won’t get lost while on a walk or be totally confused when your taxi driver can’t find his way to your neighborhood. And you can find the best way to the convenience store with the delicious french fries (aka spice or hot chips) or the place with cheap gelato.
#6. Figure out what you can’t live without, then live without it. This was the serious piece of advice that the American workers gave us. Depending on where you study, you may or may not have access to things that are a regular part of your life at home, especially technology. And some staple foods. (A perk of Namibia – they have peanut butter and lots of it! This house goes through a ridiculous amount every week. I hear it’s a bit harder to come by in Europe…) I hate to admit that I’m a little too attached to my cell phone at home, but I don’t even have one here and I don’t care one bit! You will survive, I promise. (Although it is a bit tough on those days when I just really want some triscuits.)
For now, these are what I can think of as some of the most important. If something else essential comes to me, I’ll update this post. For me, the best thing is hanging out with my housemates because they’re hilarious and they keep from thinking too much about the distance. But when I am thinking about it, writing to people back home keeps me connected and happy. Receiving mail is pretty awesome, too!