How to Survive Orientation Abroad

Katie Coble Arcadia in Greece, Greece


September 10, 2018

Orientation is always stressful, but especially so when you’re at orientation for a study abroad program. Acclimating to a new city, a new language and new classmates can feel overwhelming. Your schedule is likely to be packed with activities to help you explore your new home. If you’re planning on studying abroad, keep these tips in mind while preparing for orientation.

First, bring your walking shoes. Your first few days abroad will likely include lots and lots of walking. You may not be living on a campus within five minutes of everything you need – just getting to school might require a longer walk than you are used to. There will also be plenty of on-foot excursions to show you the important places in your new home. All of this requires some strong walking shoes. Make sure they fit the climate, season and landscape of your program and try to break them in before you arrive so that you don’t spend the first few days of orientation with blisters. Being comfortable during orientation is the first step to enjoying it.

Second, prioritize sleep. You might show up to your abroad program feeling extremely jetlagged and one of your biggest challenges on the first week will be re-adjusting your body clock. This means spending less time on your computer watching Netflix and more time – as much time as you can – resting your body for all that orientation scheduling. This is another step you can take to make yourself feel more comfortable and healthier in your new place. Getting a proper amount of sleep will aid the transition to abroad.

Third, do some research into the culture of your new country. If you are going to a country that speaks a different language, learn some common phrases before you go – and don’t be afraid to use them. Your efforts will be noticed and appreciated. Even if you are going to an English-speaking country, look into any cultural differences that might come up during the early days. What time are stores open? When do people eat their meals? What is the local cuisine? Knowing the answers to all of these questions will reduce the initial cultural shock of being in a new country.

Fourth, put yourself out there. Abroad orientation is, in some ways, freshmen orientation all over again. You’ll be meeting new people from different schools, hometowns and backgrounds. Keep an open mind and make an active effort to get to know them. Go outside of your comfort zone and try things out with your housemates or peers. They’re going to become your close friends over the next few months – make sure you get to know them before classes begin.

Finally, perhaps most importantly, have a positive attitude. Even when you feel stressed out or tired or homesick, put your best foot forward. Remember why you wanted to study abroad in the first place and be cognizant of the amazing experiences you are already going through. Take the craziness of orientation with a grain of salt and look forward to all the opportunities that are in store for you abroad.