According to data released by the European Commission to mark the 30th anniversary of the programme, 9 out of 10 Erasmus students have improved their knowledge of languages; 80% have gotten to know other cultures better, and 85% have deepened European values. It's no surprise why so many more students are choosing to partake in an international experience.
But being far from home is not always easy, especially in a country with a vastly different culture to your own. Cultural shock should not be underestimated and adaptation is part of any experience abroad. It’s normal to feel disoriented, even stressed, when living in another country. Understanding and accepting this cultural shock is the first step through integration as it means you are aware of these differences.
Here are 8 tips for a surviving culture shock and making the most of your international experience!
Famous destinations are not necessarily the best. The more touristic the city is, the harder it is to integrate with the locals. Also, tourism is often synonymous with an expensive lifestyle. Dare to visit new places!
When you study abroad, it's quite easy to find yourself in an Erasmus bubble and it can be tough to know how to integrate with the local community, especially if you don't know the language.
One way to feel less isolated is to join an international community in your new city. For example in Berlin, there's the Community Berlin-Accueil. The Community Berlin-Accueil gathers all French-speaking people living in Berlin, helps them with integration and organises regular events: dinner, sports, drinks, language courses, etc.
Participating in a local activity is the best way to meet new people easily in your new city and is also a way to familiarize yourself with your new surroundings and culture. Be careful to not only hang out with people from the same country as you: remember that you’re travelling to experience and discover new things!
It’s always easier to meet people if you speak their language! Attending a language course can be a good idea to learn the basics, adapt to your new city, and meet new people. It’s also the opportunity to meet people in the same situation as you, willing to make friends and go out.
When you’re relatively new to a city and know few people, it can be interesting to subscribe to dating platforms such as Meetup. Even if you're not looking for a life partner, many internationals use these channels as a way to meet new people and make friends. Some of the more significant sites also run local events to meet new people! Everyone can participate as long as you subscribe online. The majority of these events are free.
Living abroad is excellent, but you shouldn't forget about your friends and family back home. Keep in touch with your family, friends, colleagues to feel less alone and find support, people to cheer you up. Always strive to strike a balance though, as you don't want to spend the majority of your abroad experience on Skype!
Finding a job is a social factor that will allow you to meet people, learn the language and to earn some money at the same time! Win-win right?! I realize it sometimes is difficult to find a worthy job next to your studies. Luckily, there is a job agency called StudentJob which is available in many European countries offering various student jobs. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the region that applies to your situation.
When living abroad, it is even more critical to have a place where you feel at home. While you won't be able to redecorate your new accommodation; before you move make sure you take some personal items with you from home or pick up some small souvenirs in your new city, to give your home a personal touch!
Visit around to better understand the culture of the country. Sometimes, student associations organize some trips across the country. It is always a good opportunity to meet people, travel for cheap price and the assurance of an outstanding tour!