Learn to go with flow of things, keep an open mind
July 31, 2020
With a surplus of advice columns detailing the best ways to prepare for your international studies, it can be difficult to know where to begin. From repeat information to mere surface level advice, sometimes it’s not easy to separate the well known basics from the genuine nitty-gritty.
Of course, you can read a few pieces and learn all of the correct clothing articles to pack for the unpredictable Midwest weather, or you can discover the plethora of informative articles on what to and what not to bring during your schooling internationally.
Although these are also all important reads, still there are no concrete answers out there as to how you can completely, mentally prepare yourself. Simply put, it’s because there are none.
While it might sound scary, it’s not such a harmful thing after all. As you will continue to learn over time here, going to school internationally is an experience so incredibly unique to every student. The most important thing to understand is having an open mind in your new environment.
But don’t just take it from me, a girl who has unfortunately only ever left the country to visit Canada one time; take it from a close friend of mine who happens to be a previous international student herself.
Earlier this week, I caught up with Adrian, a U.S. student who has been to school in Malaysia and Colombia, during the last three years, in order to learn unfiltered what she wishes she had known before her international studies.
According to Adrian, something that she believes should be more emphasized is that knowing the political atmosphere you are entering is vital. In The U.S., politics are exceptionally divided. While many people are adamant on advocating for systemic change in the government, others are extremely prideful in their country and can take offense to comments of criticism against the government.
It can be difficult to know whether the person you are talking to is open to such conversation and criticism, but don’t hesitate to ask. They should understand that you are learning after all, and in learning, asking questions is never an invalid idea.
Over all, when I talked to her about tips she wished she had known prior to her exchange year, she emphasized that it’s important to know that you will stand out; and that’s OK.
She mentioned her exchange program advised students to expect that they will be seen as the “weird ones”, and it is important to get used to what is considered normal to others in the community where your international study is.
While you shouldn’t force quick adjustment onto yourself, understand there will be many differences between you and your peers and it will take time to feel like you actually “fit in.” Culture shock is quite real, and was the most difficult part of studying international for Adrian.
However, the more you understand that you cannot truly prepare yourself for instant adjusting and instead you try and learn to accept and anticipate imminent change, the easier it will be to ground yourself and find comfort in your surrounding environment.
“You just have to let go, and learn to go with the flow of things,” Adrian said.