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Study Abroad Blog

How to Survive Your First Week Abroad

By Kacie Diamond, Paris

As amazing of an experience as studying abroad is, the first week is one hundred percent the hardest. There’s jet lag, culture shock, language barriers, and just the fact that you’re trying to learn how to navigate around a new city. This isn’t to deter you from studying abroad, of course! Having just survived my own first week abroad in Paris, France, I’ve found that it helps to be prepared so that when you get to your study abroad destination you aren’t immediately overwhelmed and homesick. Follow these few simple guidelines and adjusting to life abroad should be a breeze.


Tip #1: Forget everything you know

Okay, don’t forget everything you know (those cooking and sense of direction skills will come in handy!), but you definitely have to be open to new things. During orientation week, you’ll be trying to make connections to your own culture and customs, rather than accept the differences. Instead of the constant “this isn’t the way we do this at home,” dialogue in your head, switch it around to make it positive so that you recognize that something is different, but not necessarily in a bad way. You did come abroad to experience other ways of life! The faster you get used to local customs, the more at ease you’ll feel in your new home.


Tip #2: Get on schedule

“Resist the urge to call/Skype home at all hours of the night – get on French time so that you are ‘en forme’ and can take it all in. Fatigue + the frustration that can come with your first couple of days = bad times.” – Devin DeRousseau, CEA Paris Student Affairs Director

 Window Treatment: Make your space feel more like home
with cheap decorations and a calendar where you can
display all of your weekend travels!

The first challenge you will face when you get off the airplane is figuring out what time it is. Your mind might be saying “oh my gosh I’m in a foreign country!” but your body is definitely saying “no.” The more you can do to get on the right time zone, the easier as a whole the transition will be in making your host country feel at home.

Tip #3: Make your home feel like home

“Before I left, two of my friends gave me a mason jar filled with pictures of all of us. I’ve put them up on the walls and it feels just a little more homey.” – Jessica Ma, CEA Paris Student

Walk around your neighborhood and explore! Figure out where to do laundry, buy your groceries, and get school supplies. Find cute cheap decorations so wherever you’re living doesn’t have bare, depressing walls. The more you can put your own vibe into where you’re staying the more it will feel like you belong there.

 My neighborhood market where I can find everything
I need to cook cheap and delicious meals.

Tip #4: Don’t eat out every night

Okay, eating out every night is expensive no matter where you are. In Paris, you will be hard-pressed to find takeout places, and you’ll have even less of a chance of finding take-out that is healthy for you. Of course, you’re in a new country and you want to try the food! That’s perfectly understandable! However, keep in mind that you’ll be there for a whole semester. I promise you a gourmet soufflé will taste as good in the beginning of your stay as it does in the middle of your stay or at the end. Take some time to cook at home if you can, explore your kitchen, and bond with your roommates. Maybe even try making some of your local cuisine at home! You’ll find the soufflé waiting for you when you’re ready, and your wallet will thank you.


Kacie Diamond is the Spring 2015 CEA MOJO Blogger in Paris, France. She is currently a junior at University of Wisconsin - Madison

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