Week 9: Being an International Student
Being an international student has proven to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life if not THE most amazing. There are a lot of new and different experiences that come along with it and I am going to share some of mine with you.
For many people, the first thought that comes to mind when thinking about studying abroad is “that’s a long time to be away from home and everyone I know, won’t I be homesick?” Everyone gets a little homesick it is not easy to up and leave everyone and everything you know for months or even years at a time. It is totally normal to feel homesick but it won’t last for very long especially if you immerse yourself in the culture and make friends. When I first arrived I was a little homesick for a few days. Of course I missed my family and friends and my everyday life back home in Canada but I soon realized I was in Ireland about to experience the most incredible 4 months of my life. One of the most important things you should do when you’re feeling homesick at the beginning is get out there. Go out and see the city/country you traveled all this way to see, it will make you remember why you came here and how it is all worth it. For me, this was when I traveled to the Aran Islands at the beginning of my time here. Going on that trip got me out of my room and out into the beautiful country I’ve fallen in love with today, it really made a difference for me and missing home. Also, always remember that although it is hard to miss people you care about, you will see them again and it will be great when you do but for now go and live your life abroad so that when you go back you have incredible stories to tell those people. From time to time you may feel a little homesick again, I know for me spending Christmas away from home is a little difficult and sometimes I feel a little homesick but friends and family are always a phone call away and I know they are truly excited for all the wonderful things I am experiencing here.
Adjusting and Immersing Yourself
Just like any changes in life you have to adjust. Depending on the country you are living in, it may be harder to adjust. Culture shock can be a huge obstacle to overcome. Culture shock is when you experience confusion or any uncomfortable feelings due to exposure to different aspects/ways of an unfamiliar culture. It takes a while to understand and accept these new ways of life but eventually it becomes normal. For me, culture shock was not a big issue since Ireland, for the most part has a similar social culture as Canada. Of course there are many different and unique things about Ireland’s culture but nothing that seemed too unusual or strange for me to get used to. That said, I still had to adjust to a new life in a new country without anyone I knew. In my case it didn’t take me too long, I just took on new things everyday like finding my way around, finding the grocery store, where the shops were, things to do around me etc. You just have to take it day by day and look at is as a new adventure. As I mentioned before it is important to make friends! When you make one friend, you meet more and more people and before you know it, you’ve made this incredible group of friends from all over the globe. I have my first roommate, Elsa to thank for that! In my first week she was super sweet and welcoming and invited me out to hang out with some friends and that was the beginning of the amazing journey I’ve had so far.
Balancing your New Life and School
On top of all of that, don’t forget you’re here for school! At the beginning, school is part of adjusting to life abroad. You have to get used to a new learning environment, new people and maybe even a new system. But as the time goes on and you begin to start your new life it becomes more of a challenge to balance school and your social life (as it is at home). As hard as it is, it is very important to do so. It is crucial to remember that of course it is okay to go out and be social but you are here to study and you should always stay on top of that. I actually found balancing life and school easier here at times because it was part of the whole experience I was excited for. I enjoyed learning and studying in another country and that motivated me more to keep up with it. Now, I have always been a social butterfly so throughout my school years it has been a regular thing for me to balance but one thing I learned here is that you will go out more often than just Friday and Saturday. There really is no Friday and Saturday night, it is pretty much Monday-Sunday. When I first got here and my friends were going out on a Tuesday I was thinking “are you crazy” but I quickly learned we only have so much time here together so we have to spend as much of it having fun and seeing the country as we can. Although, I don’t think it is just us (and I can’t speak for other cities around the world) but it seems to be the norm for all of Galway to be out and about until all hours any day of the week. It is a lively university city after all.
Independence is a really great thing. It is exciting and scary all at once to have that freedom when you go away. Exciting because you get to be your own independent, self-sufficient adult. Scary because you get be your own independent, self-sufficient adult. Things like doing your own grocery shopping and buying whatever you want, cooking your own meals and eating whatever you want whenever you want, doing whatever you want with your spare time are all things we naive people are excited to do. I say naive because I remember being so excited to go and do my own grocery shopping every week until I realized I wasn’t so excited to pay for it every week. But really, independence really is a huge experience of studying abroad. I really believe it is an important part of learning about ourselves and to take care of ourselves. It forces us to mature a little and see things from a whole new perspective. I will also say, I have a whole new appreciation for all the homemade meals EVERY night and all the things my parents do to give me the best experiences in life, shout out to Mom and Dad!