First month abroad: what to expect + what to do

I can’t believe I’ve been here in Canada for almost a month already. And I still can’t believe I have already completed two whole weeks of classes. It feels like I had my orientation just yesterday.

I like it here so much. It is all that I expected, but also all that I didn’t expect. It’s been such an amazing experience so far and I can’t wait to find out what comes next.

First month abroad: what to expect + what to do

Expect to have to deal with a million boring things

Before arriving in Canada, I had made a list of things I had to get done as soon as possible. Get a SIN number, open a bank account, bring study permit to the international center, and all these boring staff. Then, once I arrived and I went both to my program orientation and the international students orientation, I added even more things to my to-do list.

You might get overwhelmed. You might find yourself going out at 8 am to be the first one at the bank and then you find out they don’t open until 9.30 there. It might take some time to figure out how to get into a building and where to find the right office. But it is okay. If you look lost enough, someone will probably help you.

What to do: do not postpone the boring stuff too much. Just do them, and then enjoy your time in your new city.

Expect to feel out of place

I didn’t experience any kind of cultural shock. Coming from another western country, it didn’t take me that much to get adjusted to my new environment. However, I did my fair sharing of eavesdropping people’s conversation to learn how to appropriately talk with your waiter or how to reply when the cashier tries to make small conversation with you (this is still such a shocker to me).

Sometimes, when I walk down the street, I feel like people can just get that I’m not from here. When I walk into a place, I always feel a bit lost and, even if there are directions, I always go the wrong way.

What to do: accept that you are in a new place and it will take a while to get to know it.

Expect to get lost a lot, and get lost on purpose

For the first week, my sister was here with me, so we did a lot of touristy stuff. This allowed me to familiarize with the different neighborhoods and points of interest. I still use Google maps a lot and the Transit app is my lifesaver, but I try not to rely on those as much as possible. Sure, that means that most of the times I walk a couple of extra meters in the wrong direction, but, hey, my goal is to take 10.000 steps a day so it’s all good.

Most of the times, when I didn’t know where I was or where I was going, I ended up discovering cool little places that I would have never seen otherwise. It can also happen that you accidentally walk in one of the worst neighborhood of the city.

What to do: pick an area of your new city, go there, and just walk around aimlessly.

Expect to change your habits

I feel like have already absorbed some of the locals’ habits: I now eat dinner do much earlier than I would do back in Italy (like, one day I had dinner at 5.30pm); I find myself not worrying that much about having a snack in class or while walking down the street; I always carry a water bottle with me; and unfortunately I also started drinking a lot more juice and soda.

What to do: embrace all the new little things that your new place allows. Keep you old habits that you like and incorporate something new in your daily routine.

Expect to have some communication problems

The language barrier always makes me feel very frustrated. It isn’t really a barrier, because I can understand people and most of the times people understand me. But, I feel like my spoken English is pretty bad. My accent is thick, and sometimes, when I’m in the middle of a conversation, I can’t remember words that I actually know.

What to do: keep studying the grammar and practice using new words as much as you can.

Expect to need a break

You’re in a new place, with new people to meet, new stories to hear, but if it gets too much, you can take a break. Sure, carpe diem should be your motto, but you don’t wanna burn out. There is no point in doing things if you don’t feel like you could enjoy them at the moment.

What to do: don’t be afraid to skip a party and spend time in your room watching Netflix instead.

Have you ever spent some time abroad? How was your first month there?

Sarah

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  • I’ve never been abroad before, but I might be studying abroad next fall and this post is definitely going to be helpful! But I can still relate to what you’re saying. I live in a new city and I feel lost and frustrated a lot. I’m living on my own for the first time, so there’s definitely a lot of adjustments to do. But I’m loving the experience!