So you have decided to move to Europe for a semester, maybe you are taking part in an internship and you want to start planning your time abroad. Moving abroad is one of the hardest things in life you will begin to notice almost everything is going to be different.
Let’s start with culture; every country has a very unique way of living. Culture is an accumulation of different aspects of life in any particular country. Although you may have become accustom to a certain way of living it is extremely beneficial to your growth as a person to learn more about other cultures. On your year abroad you are given a unique opportunity to live within another culture and this opportunity should be embraced.
Secondly the language; the chances are you will travel to a country that speaks a totally different language to your own. Although most countries have a percentage of people that speak English, it is advisable that you take some time to learn and speak the local dialect. Natives will accept you more willingly if they see that you know some expressions in their language and that you are interested in learning about their culture.
Norms and values vary depending on the country you are living in. Work schedules, the time you eat, the time you go out and many other things will be different from how it is at home. See it not as an inconvenience but as a chance to spend some time living a diverse way of life. Respect the cultural habits and norms in their society. Sometimes it will appear strange for you but don’t judge and remember you are a guest in their country.
Changing the palace that you live sometimes is really inconvenient, in most cases it is an interesting experience. It is important to discover the local area you are living in so you can know where a grocery store, pharmacy, doctor, train, bus or subway station.
Making new friend is an important part of traveling abroad. When you arrive find new friends not only from your country but from other walks of life, this will help distract you from thinking about home all the time. The biggest mistake is that you have too much contact with friends from your country and family. If you have a girlfriend or boyfriend try to reduce contact with them. It will be hard for you if you think all the time about them. . Have in your mind that this experience will help build your character, increase self-confidence improve your cooking and housecleaning abilities which you will use in your future life. The best think is to relax, meet new people and grow into a new culture.
Changing the food you used to eat can be a big problem, you are used to eating different types of food with different spices, when you change your country of living every meal can be a surprise for your palate. Try to accept the taste of new cuisine and enjoy all the flavours.
It is really important that you make a good plan and preparations, the first thing is choosing a destination which is going to be your home town for next 6 months or maybe more, it is essential you make the right decision. There is a lot of countries in Europe with a rich culture like Spain, France, Germany, Italy, England and small countries like Croatia, San Marino, Andorra but not less important.
When you have chosen a destination then is time to make research about the city you will stay in. Important things to know are language, culture and habits.
One of the most important things is planning your budget so you could see how much money you have to spend per month. It really depends in which country you will visit and how much you think you will travel. Eastern European countries are not so developed and because of that they are cheaper for food and accommodation.
There are many study abroad and internship program providers who will give you package of program support, housing and well-being. For some programs this can come at a steep cost so be sure to compare. If you are choosing to go it yourself, then in addition to finding an ideal location, a place to study or intern, you will need a place to stay. In Europe there are many companies for finding accommodation for exchange students, some, like Eurasmus
(www.eurasmus.com) don’t charge fees to the student. As well as accommodation on their web page you can find offers for internships from more than 3,000 companies registered on the website. There are similar companies like Uniplaces, booking.com and housinganywhere where you can look for accommodation too.
Unfortunately there is also some boring paper work to attend to, you need to prepare all the documents, fill all the forms and book a ticket to one of European destinations. No matter how hard it is going to be this is one of the most beautiful experiences in your life. You will make new friendships with citizens who come from all over the world, visit amazing European destinations, travel, and feel the passion of culture and history.
Meeting European students on universities or internships in companies all over Europe will make you open minded, more tolerant and it will help you bridging language barriers, except this will help you to explore new and interesting culture, discover a new way of looking at a subject and grow as a person. Europe is completely different than the United States, everything is going to be new for you and you will have a assimilation period which is between two and six weeks. European universities aren’t similar to American universities or colleges. In Europe studying is cheap or free in most places. The classes are smaller and professors are more like mentors. The approach of the professors is different as they are using one-on-one approach.
Once you have secured a place with a university, they will provide you with all the necessary information on what to expect when you arrive, including what will happen on your first day.
I hope this article has been helpful and just remember you are not on your own and even though it may seem like a big step, it may just be the best decision you ever make.
Miško Macolić Tomičić is a student from Croatia currently living and doing his internship in Seville Spain helping foreign students to acclimatize in their destination.