How to Make the Most of Your First Week Abroad
Moving to a new country, especially one with a language barrier, is absolutely terrifying. The first two weeks are the most important and will set the tone for the rest of your experience studying abroad. While everyone’s time abroad is different, I’d like to share some ways that helped me settle into my new home in Prague, Czech Republic!
The first couple weeks are when everyone is excited to meet other students studying abroad, and invitations to lunches, dinners, and nights out are flying left and right. To make friends, you need to say yes to as many things as possible (although be mindful of jetlag – rest is important too!)
Take advantage of other opportunities like excursions and activities that CEA CAPA plans throughout the semester to help you meet more people in your program. For example, CEA CAPA Prague planned both ice skating and bowling within the first few weeks of being there. The environment was fun, and it's where I met people outside my roommates and classmates.
Throughout this study abroad program, you’ll inevitably meet countless new people from all over the world. However, it’s up to you whether these people become lifelong friends and sometimes, all it takes is a simple “yes.”
View from the Starbucks near Prague Castle.
Spend Some Time Alone
It’s important to spend some time exploring your new city alone. Being constantly surrounded by new people can get overwhelming, giving the same introductions over and over again. I found that giving yourself a break and wandering through your new neighborhood is a great way to decompress. Also, you’re giving yourself a head start on how to navigate your surroundings!
I decided to go to Riegrovy Sady, a park about a 20-minute walk from my flat in Prague. It’s located on a small hill and provides a beautiful view of the city. The park filled with locals walking their dogs or drinking at the outdoor pub right on top of the hill. Overall, it felt good to spend an hour or so by myself.
Be a tourist
Although you have the next few months to explore the city and country you’re living in, why not be a tourist for the first couple of days before classes officially start?
Some of the tourist spots my flat mates and I toured were:
Old Town Square
The Lennon Wall
The area around the Prague Castle
The colorful John Lennon Wall in Malá Strana, a short walk from the Anglo-American University.
I found this a great opportunity to understand the history of Prague, and became comfortable using public transportation. I spent the last six years of my life in California, so I never really used public transportation. A car is your best friend in California, but that isn’t the case in Prague.
The Čertovce Canal near the Vltava River.
And Now You’re A Local
Once the novelty and excitement of your new surroundings wear off, you suddenly realize that you’re living in a new country! This is the time to start participating in more local activities or going to stores that aren’t in the touristy areas.
Every Saturday in Prague, a farmer’s market emerges right beside the Vltava River. Although many tourists frequent this farmer’s market, there are plenty of locals too! I went with two of my flat mates and we took a short tram ride from our flat to the river’s edge. We tried some Czech food and bought bread made by the sweetest Prague local. Although he didn’t speak any English, our exchange was so pleasant (and the bread was delicious!).
A mixture of locals and tourists buying goods from the Naplavka Farmers Market which happens every Saturday morning.
Take A Moment to Reflect
When everything is so new, it can be extremely overwhelming. I felt so exhausted after every day because of how overwhelmed I got. The best way I combat those feelings was by giving myself time to reflect on my experiences.
There are a number of ways to reflect. Here are a few ways I did it:
Debriefing with flat mates
Calling your friends and family from home
Journaling is definitely my favorite way of reflecting. I love writing down my thoughts, both positive and negative, without the fear of being judged for how I’m feeling. Putting my headphones on, playing some great music, and letting my pen scribble over the pages in my journal is a pretty regular experience in my room. I also love saving ticket stubs and other mementos that I stick in my journal and remember for years to come.
Overall, moving to a new country is extremely nerve-wracking– especially if you’re like me and lived a nine-hour time difference from your friends and family. How you spend the first few weeks studying abroad can set the tone for the rest of your time, so it’s important to be mindful of what you need. Trust your gut and have some fun!
Lauren Thorburn is the Content Creator - Blogger.