You’d be hard-pressed to find a more common first question from students when they arrive at their study abroad home than, “Where is the WiFi?” Communicating with your loved ones while abroad is one of the most challenging and most unexpected adjustments a study abroad student will endure while overseas. We’ve pooled some tips from the TEAN team to share – with hopes of helping you make a smooth transition into your new adventure abroad.
This is important to do with not only your family and friends but with yourself, too. It’s best to have a talk with your loved ones about how much you’ll communicate with them throughout the semester. Decide on a frequency you think may work best for you and set the expectation that it may change once you’re physically in country. Flexibility and fluidity around this topic is essential in maintaining a healthy balance when talking to people back home.
Scheduling calls and catch up sessions will help immensely in staying connected. The time change alone can make calling home fairly tricky, so it’s advantageous to figure out when those calls can and will happen. If you’re able to catch up with your inner circle once a week, it’ll go a long way in trying to stay in touch. That way if you decide to go an unexpected adventure, no one will be left panicking if they can’t reach you right away.
Embracing the Now
There may be some points during the semester when your classes are heavy, you’re traveling a lot or your access to WiFi is limited more than usual. If you go a few days without speaking to your people back home, don’t feel guilty. Studying abroad is firstly an experience for you and you should embrace it as such. You’ll be in your new home for such a short amount of time that if you spend too many nights on the computer with friends from back home you could be robbing yourself of the new relationships you’re meant to make abroad. You’ll have nights where all you want to do is chat endlessly with your best friend back in the States and sometimes it’ll be good for you to do so! But challenge yourself to go out and explore something new in your new city on the nights when you feel that way. Maybe even turn your phone off while you’re at it. Who knows, you could meet a new addition to your circle of friends.
Check in with them when you need to and call when you need to, but realize that once you step back home, everything is going to seem the same. That’s one of the things that shocks students the most. Here you are living tons of miles away and gone for four or five months, yet when you return it’s as if you’ve never skipped a beat.
Social media can be a wonderful tool in keeping the masses up to date with your experiences. It can also be your quickest demise when you let FOMO sink in. It’s very likely you’ll experience Fear Of Missing Out and homesickness while you’re away and that’s normal. You can help curb FOMO by practicing all the tips above (wink, wink) and by reassuring yourself that your loved ones haven’t forgotten about you. They miss you just as much, if not more. Try to plan things around times you know there are breaks or holidays at home and create your own memories during the times you know friends or family will all be together. I guarantee they’re just as excited to hear how you spent your Halloween, Thanksgiving or Labor Day as you are about theirs.
Your study abroad experience can be described as a finite time in your life. It has a clear beginning and end. But if you allow yourself to embrace everything the experience has to offer you and accept the temporary physical absence from your home, you can earn so many great rewards that live on far after the definitive end of your semester.
The Education Abroad Network (TEAN) are study abroad specialists in the Asia Pacific region with semester, summer and internship programs available in Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, China and South Korea.