Today’s post comes to us from Texas State University student Kayla Duff! She’s currently studying abroad with us at University College Cork in Ireland. In fact, her study abroad adventure began just last week! Today she’s sharing some honesty with us about adjusting to your host city.
We all see posts from friends or family members who study abroad and love to talk about how much they love their new home.
Every study abroad testimonial you read talks about how amazing your host city will be. It seems like, from the moment we step foot in our host city, we’re meant to love it just as much as we love the other place we call home. I won’t lie, though – sometimes getting adjusted to a study abroad is harder than that, and I think that’s important to talk about.
Of course, part of studying abroad is learning about a new culture and a new city. You’ve put yourself in this position on purpose because you know it will be something you’ll never forget. But it’s okay to feel homesick. It’s okay to get frustrated and to feel challenged by your situation. And most of all, It’s okay if your new city doesn’t feel like home right from the start. I promise you it will eventually, but perhaps not right at the beginning.
You might not instantly fall in love with your host city.
You’ll like it, sure. It’s a new place with new people and a new life. But those things may also leave you with some hesitant feelings. Your housing is nice, but it isn’t your memory foam mattress, or it’s missing your dog running around the backyard. The city smells different from what you’re used to. It may be frustrating when you’re looking for groceries and the only thing you want is your home grocery store, and you miss knowing where everything is. You might have to deal with a language or culture barrier – perhaps you’re studying in a non-English speaking country as a native English speaker, or you might have to get used to a new money system. Even the little things, like differences in transportation or fast food chains or something as simple as not being able to find the shampoo you normally use in the supermarket, can make you feel disconnected from your host city at first.
My introduction to Cork, for example, was less than perfect through no fault of anyone’s.
My 14-hour travel time ended up turning into 26 hours when my flight at the Amsterdam airport was cancelled and I had to get on a different flight to Dublin instead of Cork, and then ride the bus to Cork. By the time I got to my apartment I was tired and hungry. To top off the day, the sheets that I had been given didn’t fit my bed (simple mix-up about the bed sizing). I was irritable and tired and I didn’t sleep soundly in a new bed, meaning I was increasingly frustrated the next morning when I woke up and needed food but didn’t know where to go to get it.
You might have a perfect, hassle-free introduction to your host city – or you might not. Either way, you’re bound to encounter little (or big) differences in culture, accommodation, and food that may leave you missing home a lot more than you expected. And that’s okay.
My best piece of advice for these moments, when you want to feel at home but you just don’t, is this: the more effort you put into making your host city home, the more it will feel like one.
Like I said, you don’t have to fall in love with your destination straightaway. But get to know the place you’re spending your time. The most important thing that you can do is to find things about your city to love. Yeah, you may not have the grocery chain you’re used to, but have you seen that beautiful riverside farmers’ market just a few minutes from your apartment? Of course you miss your friends from home, but have you checked out that old stone pub across the street with flowers on the tables and incense that smells like oranges?
Don’t feel pressured to push aside your frustrations in the beginning because you feel like you’re ‘supposed’ to love your host city immediately. Studying abroad is an adjustment, and it is a different process for everyone. That being said, though, don’t allow yourself to fall into a rut. Ultimately your study abroad experience is what you make of it, and I promise you that the more time you spend exploring your new home, the more it WILL begin to feel like home.