In my opinion, having done it twice, living some time in a foreign country is one of the most enriching experiences one can have, even when this experience is not as simple as we thought and is not free of difficulties.

When we pack our bags we tend to fill them with illusion and we concentrate on all the positive things that this new adventure will bring us. Learning a new language, new friends, all the places we are going to visit, the trips we are going to take… but rarely do we think of all the obstacles that we may find on the way to achieving our goals.

Upon arriving to that new place, we are wishing to explore the city, the people and their peculiarities, the gastronomy, the parties… everything about the new and exciting destination. In this time, we typically experience what is called the Honeymoon Phase : a phase when everything seems marvelous and we feel euphoria, enthusiasm, curiosity and fascination for the new country in which we find ourselves and for its culture. We should not forget that not everyone goes through this phase and that there are people who, from the beginning, may suffer difficulties which we will detail next.

After some time, after the Honeymoon Phase has passed, we may start to really miss many of the things we have left behind in our country of origin. We may feel that all which initially was attractive and marvelous about our new place is starting to interest us much less. Perhaps we even start to perceive some of the things we previously liked from this new culture in a negative way once we start to really appreciate the differences between our home culture and the one in which we find ourselves currently. This is called “culture shock” and it is a totally normal phase during the process of adaptation.

Some of the things that can occur during this phase are, for example, that we feel tired and irritated for being obligated to speak in a new language, that we get frustrated when we are unable to understand what is happening or what is being said to us in a situation or even that we have to adapt to the formalities of a new culture. We start to magnify the negatives of the new place where we live, to feel a bit down and even without interest in continuing the experience.

Overcoming these difficulties is at times complicated but, believe me, it is worth it to try! Living in a new country not only makes you discover a new place, a new culture and new people- it also will help you discover yourself. It will make you more flexible, independent and resolved. Since it is worth trying, here are some tips that can help you overcome some of the difficulties you may have to face during your adventure:

Identify the objectives of your new experience.

For many this will be to learn a new language, be able to travel and live for a year in a new place far from home, get to know people from other cultures, etc. Look for your reasons for being there and always keep them present. The way might not always be easy but if we have a reason for staying, it will be easier to feel as if facing difficulties is worth it.

Routine is difficult to maintain when we start from scratch in a new place but it helps.

Try to adapt your schedules to that of the city where you are, maintain regular sleeping and eating patterns as much as you can and remember to include some exercise in your daily routine.

Hobbies are important.

Don’t forget about the things you enjoyed at home. If you like to read, dance, cook, play an instrument or paint, look for a space in your schedule for that. If you didn’t have any hobby at home or it is impossible to keep up (for example you love to surf but you live in Madrid), you can surely find thousands of options to experiment in your new destination.

Strengthen your social relationships.

Making friends isn’t always as easy as we think and even less so when we want to meet locals. Try to meet new people with whom you share interests, looking for friends at your workplace or school. If it is difficult to find them there, don’t forget that there are many places to meet new people. Language exchanges are usually a good place to meet locals and other foreigners and there are many group activities to find people to speak with. Get help from your hobbies and look for activities related to them to find friends with similar interests.

Make sure not to isolate yourself and keep up with the connections you make throughout your trip.

Say yes to all the plans that you can, even if the film you are invited to or the art expo that your friends are thinking about visiting isn’t the most exciting plan for you, it could be worth it just to spend that time with friends.

Keep in touch with the loved ones you left at home.

Speaking with our close friends and our family can help us feel the support and warmth of home and can help relieve symptoms of homesickness.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

If the adaptation is feeling quite difficult, if you feel sad or anxious, there are many places you can turn to for help. Speak with your classmates or workmates, share what is happening to you and remember that you always have professionals to count on. At Sinews we are waiting with open arms to help you overcome all of the difficulties you may find during your adventure.

Saray Cáliz Aguilera
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Saray Cáliz Aguilera
Languages: English and Spanish
See Resumé