Before moving to Germany for my Masters, I used to hear people complain about how hard it is to live abroad with no friends and family. Almost all of my friends who were living abroad told me about going through different phases of depression, some of which would even last for months. I have even heard stories about people literally crying and rethinking their decision of moving abroad. Some of them even broke down and moved back to their home country.
As someone who was just about to take this big step, I will be honest, it was haunting to think about going through that same experience but to my surprise, it wasn’t actually that bad as most people claimed it to be. That is when I realized how wrong people were and it’s actually a choice rather than a given.
Here are some uncommon tips on how to make your experience of studying abroad one of the best decisions of your life rather than filled with regret.
Make friends with the people around you
There are many reasons why people go into that phase of depression when they go abroad for their studies but the most important of them all is the emotional void which is filled by your friends and family back home and you have no one in this new place to fill that for you. Here’s something I learned that made it easier for me to network with people.
Don’t wait for someone to start a conversation but rather be the one to initiate it
I’ll explain why this is important. Now I know that most of you will be too shy to initiate a conversation with someone and would prefer the other person to come to start a conversation with you before you get comfortable talking to them but let me give you a different perspective on that. Like you, 90% of the people around you will be shy and having the same thoughts going on in their head. That’s human nature and that is exactly what will give you the advantage if you take the first step.
If you look at this from their point of view, when someone like you goes to them and sparks a conversation, they will feel special since you, out of all the people around went specifically to talk to them even though they weren’t expecting it. It breaks the ice and makes them comfortable with you. Trust me this will go a long way and you’ll end up meeting some really amazing people. Just imagine being in that situation yourself for a minute and you’ll feel the same.
Get out of your comfort zone
When you move abroad to a non-Muslim country there are obviously going to be a lot of cultural differences. This means that you will miss a lot of events and activities that are not really a part of your culture. In this situation there are two things you can do:
- Stick to the people of your own culture which will definitely make your experience of staying abroad better but not great because you won’t really be experiencing much about what it actually means to live in a different culture. Just consider it being on a short vacation for two years and coming back so you won’t really be getting out of your comfort zone which is fine if you’re ok with it.
- (Recommended) Hangout with people of diverse cultural backgrounds. This will turn your stay into a great learning experience as you will be put into situations you have never been in before. After all, isn’t that a part of the reason you’re here in the first place? Of course, it’s going to be easy to just be in your sweet little room when everyone else goes out for a party or a couple of drinks but you can still be a part of these activities without actually indulging in them. Some of the best conversations I have had actually happened in these different events I have been a part of. That actually set the basis for the close friendship I have developed with my existing friends.
Travel as much as time and money permits you
Well, there are a lot of perks of being a student in Germany. There’s free education (which almost everyone knows about), an inexpensive lifestyle but the best part is the vast variety of cheap travel options within Europe. I can understand as a student, it might still not be affordable as you’ll have a lot of other expenses to worry about every month and might not be able to save enough for such luxury.
What if I told you there are some free travel options as well? Yes, that’s right! As a student in Germany, you get a semester ticket from your University which allows you to travel free of cost within your city but there’s more. Based on your city, your semester ticket also gives you free access to some intercity travels. For example, I live in Bremen and here’s the list of cities I can travel to that are part of my semester ticket.
It’s as simple as making lunch or dinner plans. Just text your friends, get on a train and voila you get to explore a whole different city without worrying about planning it for months. For me, that’s by far the best reason for moving to Germany in the first place.
Why all this is important?
You might not remember the things you studied during the course even if you graduate with a pretty good GPA. Hell, I don’t even remember what I studied in the class last week but these experiences will be the defining moments of what your stay abroad is going to be like. It all goes back to the thing I mentioned in the beginning that it’s a choice rather than a given. Instead of complaining about the shitty life you have living abroad, step up and make it a turning point that you will be thankful for in the years to come.
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