Author: Julia Riordan
Location: Cambridge, England
It is currently 1 a.m. in Cambridge and I cannot sleep. Often times I can adjust to the time change while traveling to other countries. Yet for some reason, adjusting to the time change and to my new life in Cambridge is proving to be rather difficult. When I went to Italy with my family in 2016, It was widely understood that I was a sightseer and a visitor. However, I am not in Cambridge because I have decided to embark on a short trip or even take a vacation. I have moved here. The permanency of my decision is unsettling and scary. During these quiet nights I ask myself if my decision to study abroad was a mistake. How could I have anticipated what this move would feel like?
I think that what is different about my current experience in Cambridge is my need to recreate my old life within a foreign place. I have acknowledged that Cambridge is my new home. It is human nature to try and find comfort or familiarity within the unknown. When we are visiting another country, we acknowledge these cultural differences but also find comfort in knowing that soon we will return to the familiar. Yet, Cambridge will be my new home for the next couple months. Therefore, I must find ways to make my current life in a new country more comfortable. Yet, this is a tricky process when we are surrounded by the unfamiliar.
After talking with my cohort, it seems that many students similarly yearn for the comforts of home. What helps however, is wandering our new home and enjoying aspects of the city that are wonderfully different. Perhaps you will find an ornate building that immediately demands your respect. Or, you become infatuated with the historical context of the new city. Rather than focusing on the differences of another country and your own discomfort, it seems helpful to find an appreciation for certain aspects of your new city. My new favorite church is pictured below.
These feelings of discomfort or anxiety are normal. It is not surprising that students feel far from the comforts of their homes. However, confiding in your cohort will prove to be extremely beneficial. Your cohort is undoubtedly experiencing the same discomfort or fear. By confiding in each other, you can validate and encourage one another. You may even become friends with the students in your cohort.
Despite my feelings of uncertainty, anxiety and doubt I am excited for the experiences to come. Although my decision to study abroad has completely altered my life, it is also a fruitful opportunity that will help me to become more independent. It is easy to view studying abroad as exciting, yet it can be harder to anticipate the difficulty of adjusting. It may be helpful to think about ways you can cope with these adjustments before arriving in a new country. However, you have more support than you realize from your cohort and from your family and friends back at home. Take a deep breath and enjoy your new adventure. It’s going to be amazing.