SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO ? (You should go of course)
The Traveller's 5 Commandments
Going abroad is an experience many students look forward to. It allows them not only to improve their level in a foreign language but also to discover a new culture and make international friends. But it can also be quite scary to jump into the unknown without knowing what you’re getting into. That is why many expatriates experience “cultural shock”. Cultural shock is defined, according to the dictionary Merriam Webster, as “a sense of confusion and uncertainty along with feelings of anxiety that may affect people exposed to an alien culture or environment without adequate preparation”.
To avoid cultural shock, bad surprises and awkward moments, here is the Traveller’s Commandments that we have compiled for you and urge you to follow when you go abroad.
1. A good roommate you will be
Having roommates is a great human experience, even though it can be challenging. To make communal living bearable, it is important to set some ground rules in order to avoid conflicts. Good communication is key. Don’t stay silent and frustrated when something goes wrong. Share your feelings with your roommates and try to find solutions all together. Build together a fair schedule of housework (which is generally the major source of conflict in a shared house). Establish a rule about boy/girlfriends: do we all agree to bring them home whenever we want ? (this is the second major source of conflict, don’t forget it!) Finally, just be nice to each other, organise dinners and parties all together, and enjoy the experience. You can build real friendships forever.
2. A cautious drinker and eater you will be
There are as many ways to drink as there are countries. Russians drink vodka as if it were water, Londoners are binge drinkers and Spanish love their cerveza. Prices can vary a lot. While alcohol is rather expensive in France or the UK, you can drink shots for 1 euro in Spain! So, even if prices are attractive or your local friends want you to take a sip of everything, respect your liver and don’t be tempted to drink too much. And when it comes to food, it can be hard to get used to cooking every day if you live alone for the first time without your parents cooking for you.. You’ll be tempted to cook just pasta or French fries. Also, kebabs and pizza are generally very cheap in every country and you can easily be tempted. Try to be strong and buy vegetables: your body will appreciate it.
3. An advised greeter you will be
Hugs? Kisses? It is tricky to greet someone from a different country. So to avoid awkward situations, it may be a good idea to do some research about the dos and don’ts. Although there are some similarities, kisses in France and Spain for example, the way to greet people in Asia is quite different. You may offend someone if you try to hug him! There might also be situations where you think people are being too friendly: in Southern countries, people are often very tactile whereas in Northern European countries this is not the case at all.
4. Health insurance ? Money ? A prepared student you will be
Nobody likes getting into a lot of administrative drama, but it is a necessary step before moving to a new country. If you are an European travelling in Europe, the matter of health insurance is less of a headache, you just need to ask for the European Health Card and you are good to go. However, if you go to North America, health care is very expensive and you might need to subscribe to a private insurer. As for documentation, you will need a visa depending on how long and why you travel. For the EU, you don’t need a visa, but a National Insurance Number is compulsory to work. In Spain, it is called el Número de Identificación Extranjera. These processes can be quite long so it is very important to plan months ahead in order to get all the documentation you need on time and avoid any bad surprises!
As regards money, there are scholarships. If you go with the Erasmus program, there is the Erasmus Grant, which is open to all European students. Outside Europe, there are also scholarships available, so make sure you get hold of the correct information in time.
5. A perfect student life you will lead
It is hard to go to a new university and fit in. You might feel alone among local students who all already know each other. Don’t panic, there are international student groups inside almost every university and even outside. Enroll in an activity you like in order to meet people who have the same interests as you. Look for it, register for meetings, parties, trips… Don’t be shy! It will help you make friends and discover the country you are living in. Plus, it is the opportunity to meet with locals and practice your second language. Don’t forget, you only get one chance at Erasmus or Study Abroad!
To conclude, with the right preparation, you won’t have anything to be afraid of. Go, you will not be disappointed.
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