Ellen Atkinson New York

Keeping in Touch

Ellen – Semester Exchange to Regis University, USA

Semester 1, 2017

On the other side of the world you are separated from your loved ones at home not just by distance, but also by time.

Time zones are killers, not only because of Jet Lag (my first day in LA was painful and covered in coffee). Different time zones often mean that while you are awake and out doing new things, everybody at home is asleep. Often you will find that by the time your friends are awake and ready to talk you’ve already moved onto the next activity.

In this case I find keeping a travel journal extremely helpful. Although I am not a regular journal writer, I use it to write down experiences that I absolutely don’t want to forget. My advice is, make a wordpress blog as it is free to create and you can design it however you like. Importantly it is private and you only share it publicly if you want to, or can send the link to family and friends. A blog is a good space to document your thoughts, struggles, memories and the writing acts as a good way to process things you might be struggling with.

Often the change in culture, learning & social environment and climate can be difficult to process- maybe not initially but it might creep up on you later. Often the change takes a while to sink in. For me it was in week 4, where I felt lost, homesick and confused. That is when I started my wordpress blog where I was able to write down how I was feeling which helped me to process them.

An effective way to get settled into a new city/country is to set a new routine. It helped me a lot and by week 6 I woke up, walked to my 9am class and had a sense of comfort, I finally felt at home. Everything around me was familiar and I really felt settled into my new life in Denver. However, I struggled for those previous weeks. It is hard sometimes to transition from a holiday mode to living mode when you travel.

So, talk to everybody in your classes you will make friends undoubtedly and eventually, say yes to everything – your newfound free time will need to be filled with activities. Try and join a club or sports team (especially if you are doing Study Abroad in the United States- there are always sports teams to join). If you are struggling to adapt to the new climate- talk to your supervisors at your host university, as they will provide support and activities that will keep you busy. At Regis, my study abroad office has events almost every week that are designed to bring together all study abroad students and those who are planning on doing study abroad. I have been able to meet a lot of Regis students and even one who was at ACU last year. Although I am almost at the end of my semester abroad, I am getting busier and busier in my life and find more opportunities to travel around with the more friends I make. At the moment I am spending Easter Break in Albuquerque, New Mexico with one of my friends at her families ranch and it is one of the best experiences I have had and I get the chance to really see the country. Although it has been hard to communicate with back home, in a way that forces you to step out of your comfort zone and make a new life in your host city.