Genevieve – Exchange to Radboud University, The Netherlands
Semester 2, 2016
In what feels like the very short month that I’ve been in the Netherlands, I’ve learnt so far, that keeping in touch with family and friends back home can be bit complicated to say the least.
I started with high expectations of keeping in touch through emails, long texts and weekly, maybe even scheduled Skype sessions.
Oh… how wrong I was.
The first couple of weeks – orientation, beginning classes, navigating myself around a new and mysterious town, settling into new housing, making friends… were some of the most fun and exhilarating weeks I’ve experienced.
They were also – full. on. exhausting.
However, as I settle into a timetable, have regular wifi and at long last, some time to myself, I’ve come to find myself thinking about home and how I plan to balance all these mixed emotions.
Here are some of my tips so far…
- Don’t let the time difference get in the way
There are exactly 8 hours between the Netherlands and Melbourne. When its 9am here, its 5pm back home.
Most of my classes don’t start until 11am at the earliest so I’m lucky enough that this is prime time for me to catch up with my family and friends who are often returning home from work.
I find this is the best way to do it, it means as a student – I can set my alarm which gets me out of bed and often the best time my family back home who are coming home to finish their day.
In the end, find a time that suits you and those back home.
Don’t let the fact that you’re at the opposite ends of a day seem daunting – there’s nothing like a quick chat to a close friend to start your day off in the best possible way.
- Remember important dates
This might seem like an easy one but make sure that the people back home know that you are thinking about them.
As silly as this sounds, don’t get too caught up in your new, fun, exciting life and remember to post a card for someone’s birthday or send a postcard to a friend.
Those back home will appreciate this SO much, and really – it only takes a little effort on your end.
- Be creative
You know those moments when the internet connection just isn’t working for you, there’s an awkward pause, the delay isn’t making it any easier to carry on the conversation and you feel like giving up on skype?
Well if you haven’t experienced this, you’re one in a million and by all means you might not feel the need to do this.
My tip however is, be creative with the ways in which you keep in touch.
Skyping and texting can often seem mundane so make sure as much as you want to keep a regular schedule that you keep it as normal and fun as possible.
Try switching between that weekly Skype session and just giving your friend – time permitted – a quick call on your way out.
There are so many ways in which you can keep friendships fun – even from the other side of the world. There’s an app now, called ‘Lets Gaze’, which lets you watch a movie or tv show with your friends over the internet.
Again, find what works for you – just never let it get to the point where it feels like a chore.
If you’re lucky enough to have a friends or family back home come and visit you, like I’ve been this week, this is obviously by far the best way to keep in touch with those back home.
You get to share your experience, your new friends and your new city.
Clearly, not everyone can be this lucky so if you don’t get the chance to share your trip abroad with anyone from home, make sure you share your experience in other ways. Don’t be afraid to tell a friend about your day-to-day. As much as you don’t think people want to hear about it, it’s often a great to way to stay close with family and friends, and helps them – and you – visualise each other’s lives and stay in touch.
- Embrace the time you’ve got overseas
In saying all this, remember to embrace your experience, and live your few short months on exchange to the full.
Keep in touch with family and friends but at the same time make sure you embrace the new ones you’ll make.
In the end, although Melbourne will always be home, by studying abroad I’m choosing to immerse myself in a new and exciting culture. An experience I’ll never forget.