Author: Sarah Buckman
Location: Newcastle, Australia
Everyone has their daily routines. At college this most likely includes the many jobs, clubs, and activities you find yourself involved in. However, this tends to happen naturally, while in your home country. So how do you get involved while abroad? Here I will share some of the things I did to get involved while abroad, that ultimately changed my entire experience for the better.
When you get to your country that you will be abroad in, the first thing I recommend as a must do would be to take advantage of your new college’s welcome week. It is typically within the first week of you arriving there and is jam packed with optional activities to go to. Make it your personal mission to go to as many things you find interesting as possible! What better way to get your feet wet than by taking advantage of how new everyone is to college life, to meet people, join things, and make memories! Between tours, get togethers, club and sport meet and greets, and activity fairs there is so much offered during this unique week. Out of all the things listed, if I were to pick the top thing that changed my experience would be the activities fair. If you can only make it to one thing be sure to make it to this! Even though you will feel like a freshman all over again, it is something that should not be passed up in order to get involved and acclimated to your new college.
While at the activities fair, make sure to be open to trying new things, but also make sure to get to the booths you know are things you will most likely get involved with. For myself, I love to be involved religiously, so I made sure to get information from those. If you are also interested in spirituality while abroad, you are in for some good news! It is very likely no matter where you end up studying that there will be plenty of options for you! I love getting involved in the Chapel back at Valparaiso University, so I knew this would be a good fit for me! Turned out, between UniChurch and Reality Bible Study at the University of Newcastle, both are where I ended up making the majority of my friends while abroad! I hung out with these friends almost every day, go on day trips with them, and even went on a weekend retreat with them! Such a unique experience to have during a study abroad program! I even became a volunteer youth leader while I was abroad and got to work with kids! Could not recommend this bit of advice enough!
One very easy thing to help you get involved on your new campus is to check to see if your campus offers an international student club/organization. At the University of Newcastle, our international organization was called UNESN (University of Newcastle Exchange Student Network) and it was a fantastic resource to meet people from many different countries besides America and Australia. Through this organization, I had the opportunity to go on many excursions and planned events and got to meet many people and grow close to those people because we all looked forward to seeing each other again on the next event. Going abroad is about meeting people from new places and being a part of an international organization helps this piece of studying abroad become a reality.
Another solid way to get involved while abroad is to attend building and/or floor activities! Just like in America, you will find most colleges will still offer events that are just related to the people you live closest to! In my case, my dorm building not only hosted building events, but even floor ones. Making sure to go to them when you have the time is a great way to meet even more people, and it does not require any work! During my floor events we played games, made baked goods for each other and even potted plants together. Each event probably only lasted an hour, but it still made the best impact at getting to know people better. As far as building events go, there are too many to recount! My favorite, and most impactful one that I went on, by far, was when we all went to clean the beach on National Clean Up Australia Day! It was so cool getting together with them to accomplish something that held a bigger impact than just on ourselves. Seriously, take advantage of getting to know the people who are literally closest to you!
These are just a couple of ways to help get you involved while abroad. If studying abroad has taught me anything, it is that the more people you meet, the better your experience will become. Why seclude yourself to small amounts of people when clearly studying abroad shows you just how big the world can be? Do not be afraid to branch out and to put yourself out there!