How to Survive Your First Week as an International Student

As you probably know (I’ve talked about it a lot on this blog and on all my social media channels), I’m currently abroad for a semester in England. I can hardly believe that I’ve been here for a week already! I feel like the week has flown by.

Studying abroad? Click through to find out how to survive your first week as an international student!

I know studying abroad can be a scary experience, especially the first week. Studying abroad can be scary. You’re thrown into a brand new environment where you know no one. You will be disoriented. Literally and figuratively. As someone who has literally just experienced this, I thought I would give you a few tips on how to survive your first week as an international student and how to make the best out of it! 

Go to the organized activities

One of the things that scared me the most was the making friends part. I’m an introvert by nature, and I’m quite shy. It takes me a lot to get out of my shell. Social situations make me anxious. So you can imagine how studying abroad in a language that is not my mother tongue is a challenge on more than one level. I was lucky enough to know one girl who was going to study abroad at the same university that I was, but I know that’s not everyone’s case. If you’re alone, don’t worry! Chances are, the international branch of your university abroad will have prepared a welcome program where you can meet new people and discover the area. If you don’t have any friends when you arrive at university, then I urge you to go to the organized activities! This is your best chance of meeting people who, like you, are new and alone. You’ll probably meet lots of people (most of whom you won’t remember the names of later on), and who knows, maybe you’ll meet your new BFF? Even if you don’t, that’s the best way of making friends and socializing. You didn’t travel all this way to stay in your room all the time, so please sign up for the activities designed for international students!

Get over yourself

And that brings me to my next point. Most of the time, I go to activities, but I end up alone, not talking to anyone. I was so afraid to say the wrong thing (especially since English isn’t my mother tongue) that I barely talked, except to the people I already knew. How was I supposed to meet new people if I was too afraid to talk to them? So eventually… I got over myself. I realized that I couldn’t rely on my friend to always introduce me to the people she befriended and that if I wanted friends of my own, I had to get over my irrational fear and start talking to people on my own. You can’t wait for people to come to you all the time. Sometimes, you have to take matters into your own hands. So get over yourself and talk to people! The worst that could happen is that it doesn’t click between the two of you.

Walk around your campus

Remember when you were a freshman and you were afraid of getting lost on campus? Well, the same fear is likely to reappear and you’ll have to go through the same thing all over again. So I would highly recommend walking around campus and trying to find your accommodation building, where your classes will be held, and the hot spots on campus. Whenever you have a little free time, familiarize yourself with your new campus. Within a few days, I promise that everything will start getting familiar!

Buy all your essentials ASAP

Chances are, you didn’t come to your new home country with all the kitchen and toiletries essentials you’ll need to survive there for several months (and that’s completely normal). But as soon as you get on campus, you’ll find yourself needing things that you didn’t bring in your suitcase, such as toilet paper, kitchenware, and food. You may have brought a couple of things that can help you survive a couple of days (and you campus likely has a cafeteria and/or restaurants nearby), but I would recommend getting your essentials as soon as you can. I wouldn’t bother with buying the best quality since you’re only staying for a couple of months and you’re not going to bring these things back home with you when you leave. Here are a few essentials that I would highly recommend you get in your first few days abroad:

  • Pots and pans
  • Toilet papers
  • Tissues
  • Big size bottles of shampoo and conditioner
  • Granola bars
  • Bread
  • Reusable bottle of water (if you didn’t already bring one)
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Towels
  • Fruits and veggies
  • Lean meat (or any kind of protein)
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Bedsheets (My university offered bedding packs for not much money that included a duvet, a fitting bedsheet, two pillows, two pillowcases and a duvet cover, so I’d definitely recommend asking if your university offers something similar!)

Familiarize yourself with the area

You’re in a new country, new city, new campus… So you will more than likely feel disoriented (with reasons!). So not only do I recommend familiarizing yourself with your new campus, but also browse your new city! Find out where the mall, grocery, and drug stores are. Figure out how to get back on campus by yourself using public transportation and by walking a different route every time. If you’re in a big city, be a tourist! Hit the big landmarks and take lots of pictures. Know the city on the back of your hand. Become so familiar with the place that when people ask you for directions, you know what to tell them. (happened to me six days after I arrived! I felt so proud.)

Live in the moment

I think the most important part is to have fun! But you won’t be able to fully enjoy your time abroad if you’re always hung back home. You’ll be missing on some truly amazing experiences if you’re always on your phone talking to people back home. I know it sounds harsh, but don’t be the person who calls their parents, friends, and/or loved ones every day. I know you miss them, and they miss you too, but you’ll never be able to make the best out of your experience abroad if you’re always talking to people back home. It’s okay to stay in touch via social media or email, but you’re not making yourself (or them) a favor if you’re always on your phone. Instead, set up a weekly Facetime or Skype session and catch them up on everything that has been going on! That’ll make it more special and you’ll have more to tell them. It’ll also allow you to truly enjoy the experience and live in the moment.

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  • I love this – so excited to see that you’re in the UK and you’ve already learned so much! I remember feeling like this as a freshman in college, and while the idea of experiencing that is terrifying to say the least, I think these tips are super helpful.

    • I can say that I feel very much like I’m back to being a freshman right now! It reminds a lot of how I was two years ago, but at least now I feel better prepared!

  • Have so much fun! I never studied abroad and regret it to this day!!!

    Christina | http://www.cuddlepill.com

  • Honestly, I always forget English isn’t your first language. I’m always just so impressed by your writing!

    • aw, thank you so much Caitlyn!! That means so much to me.