Adjusting to life in a foreign country

Kaitlyn Smith
Exchange to Radboud University, The Netherlands
Semester 2, 2017

Having moved away from home over 5 months ago and living in The Netherlands for 4 of those months, I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone multiple times whether that be from experiencing a different culture, language, food, anything.

It takes time to adjust to living away from home and for me in particular, living independently for the first time, at times it can seem very daunting living so far away from home.

Living in a foreign country can being very daunting especially when you’re first going into it, but I’ll just put it out there, it’s absolutely worth it. It’s a chance to step out of your comfort zone, do something independently, learn new cultures and even new languages and meet some amazing people from all over the world that you might not have had to opportunity to meet otherwise.

So here are some tips from what I’ve learnt from living in the Netherlands so far:

People here speak really good English! Sometimes such good English that it puts me to shame! People in shops are always friendly but it pays to be polite. Make sure to ask if they speak English before initiating a conversation or question in English.

Learn a few key words in your countries native language. Now I can’t say that I know very many Dutch words at all, but it’s always nice to be able to say hi, bye, please and thank you. And then be sure to tell them that you don’t speak Dutch so you’re not left clueless when they try and have a full-on conversation with you!

Depending where you’re going, some places can be very different to home and what you’re used to. Don’t let it freak you out. Try and embrace everything that is new and different and fight off that culture shock! Do what the locals do, get a bike! Try to experience the local customs, foods and activities, you might end up learning a thing or two. Just like I’ve learnt how delicious stroopwafels are!

It really helps making friends. You will meet so many people on your student abroad, some of who that come from very different backgrounds and countries. But everyone is in the same boat living away from home. You meet some incredible people while living abroad, experience all things that are new with them, it helps not doing things on your own. And it’s so much more fun with a companion!

The key is to just enjoy it. And enjoying your time abroad really isn’t hard at all! It’s an experience that you will look back on with such fond memories and appreciate all the memories you’ve made. Even now, still on my time abroad I look back to the start and love and the memories I’ve made, people I’ve met and new experiences I have had. Embrace where you are and what you’re doing and trying not to think about missing home too much. So, step out of your comfort zone, yes it can be daunting but it’s so worth it and then you’ll realise that what you were nervous about at the start, you really didn’t need to be.