How to Survive Studying Abroad

 1. Make friends with the locals.

 I think most people are apprehensive about meeting locals when studying abroad, but I would recommend you do it as soon as possible! They are the best resource for information on your new city, and they will be able to help you get through any cultural barriers that may arise. Without any local friends in my study abroad program, I would never have learned how to navigate public transportation or discern what was a cultural norm and what wasn't. It's so easy to make friends if you put yourself out there! Talk to other students in your program and find out where they're from, then open up a conversation with them if their native language isn't English (mine is Japanese). If they speak only Japanese, introduce yourself in English while gesturing towards yourself and then ask their name while pointing at them (you can use these same gestures if they speak English too!). Most likely the other student will reciprocate by saying their name and pointing at themselves. I took a gap year before college, so I knew a little bit of Japanese before studying abroad in Japan. I was still nervous talking to strangers in Japanese, but it turned out to be easy once you get past your initial awkwardness!


2. Get familiar with public transportation.


Public transportation is vital when you're studying abroad! You will most likely have classes that are spread out around the city or even outside of the city limits. To get from one class to another safely and efficiently, you will want to learn how public transportation works in your new city! It's also important for getting around town on weekends and exploring different neighborhoods if you live on campus (or don't rent an apartment). If there's one thing about public transportation that is often difficult for students who speak English as their native language (like myself), it's figuring out which bus or train goes where and what time they run. Sometimes buses run at weird times like 6:30 A.M., 7:30 A.M., 8:45 A.M., etc., so it can be difficult figuring which bus line runs during which time period (and whether they go through more than once). Once again, this is why local friends are so helpful! Friends who speak the local language can help clarify what time each bus runs during each day of the week, what stops are located where, etc. Most likely the bus ride will be much quicker and easier once you get used to it!

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3. Learn how to say "I don't understand" in the local language.


Saying "I don't understand" can be a bit scary, especially if you're using a thick accent or speaking with an awkward tone and pacing (which I did when I first started learning Japanese). However, it's important to learn how to say this phrase in your new language while you're still in your home country before going abroad! It's best done while you're at home because there will be no one staring at you while they wait for your response (and if they do stare, it'll just mean that they're interested too!). If possible, practice saying this phrase out loud over and over again until it feels natural. Then try watching TV or listening to music with subtitles/translations so that you start learning words and phrases along the way. Once I was comfortable saying "I don't understand", my Japanese improved drastically because people were suddenly more willing to slow down their speech rate and repeat what they said! It was also easier for them since I didn't always need help from another person who spoke English fluently.


Go out there and try your best to make new friends! It really is the only way you'll be able to get the most out of living abroad. It's also a great chance for you to learn more about another culture, so don't be afraid! Good luck, and have fun studying abroad!


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