Hi guys! I’m a third-year MSci Marine Biology student, currently on study abroad at the University of Miami in Florida. It is home to the Rosenstiel School of Marine Science, one of the best places to study everything about the ocean, so I am super excited to be here.
Although this is my first time in Miami, this isn’t the first time I’ve been to a new country; my family has moved around since I was younger. I’m an old hand at the whole ‘meet-new-people-experience-new-things!’ song and dance, so I wanted to share some tips that I think help me to enjoy living or studying abroad to the fullest, no matter where I am.
Tip #1: Enjoy the view
If you’re going to a new place, chances are, there will be amazing views to admire. Take the time to appreciate them! No one should make you feel embarrassed for taking pictures of anything and everything that you find cool or unique.
The big lake might look inviting, but be careful: it’s saltwater, and they say there are still crocodiles in there.
Tip #2: Visit a department store
Get the essentials; it’s very likely that you will have forgotten to bring something, or couldn’t fit it in your bag, or a hundred other reasons that you don’t have something you need. Not only will buying stuff like pillows, mattress covers, and hangers make the room more comfy, but it will help you figure out how to get around in the new environment and which shops sell cheap snacks. Everyone needs cheap snacks.
Tip #3: Try the local food
Don’t hunt around for the McDonalds you know and love; try something more local. In the first few weeks, it’s more fun to try some local cuisine – leave the nostalgic Mackie’s run for when you’re missing home. Be sure to keep an open mind; it’s just as likely for you to hate something as it is to become your new favourite food, but new experiences are a constant in studying abroad.
Tip #4: Do tourist things
The best thing about studying abroad is feeling like you’re on vacation while being there for a whole year. Just like in Tip #1, take advantage of this opportunity of a lifetime and go see the sights! Studying abroad also means more time to get to know the locals – and they tend to give the best advice about what’s really worth doing in the area.
Tip #5: Embrace the culture
Sounds like a platitude, but it’s true. Sticking your nose up at stuff during study abroad is the quickest and easiest way not to have a good time – so try giving it the benefit of the doubt, instead. The place will grow on you eventually – why not just let it?
Tip #6: Make sure you like your classes
Like Tip #2, a little goes a long way. Studying is a key part of studying abroad, after all, and if the class you’ve picked out aren’t interesting, then it will become difficult to enjoy the rest of your time abroad. UM, for example, gives you up to a certain point to add or drop classes without any repercussions, and during that time, you can mix and match until you find a fit you like.
Tip #7: Join clubs!
Another common saying that has real truth behind it. You don’t have to join serious, training-every-day-at-6am clubs if you don’t want to – maybe you want to learn salsa, or cooking, and find other people who have the same idea. Some clubs – like the scuba diving club and the marine science honours society I’ve signed up for – offer trips around Florida, which saves me having to plan these things myself.
Tip #8: Call home
Do this sparingly: calling home too often can make you feel homesick all too easily, and cloud your first few weeks here with melancholy, but do take some time out to phone home. It’s your parents’ job to worry, so tell them some funny stories about how it took you too long to figure out how to work the waffle machine in the cafeteria to make them smile. Besides, it’s likely you’ll need to call home for help in filling out paperwork.
Tip #9: Go to the parties
As an introvert, this is my least favourite piece of advice. But I also believe this tip to be the most important one. First impressions stick; if you stay in your room for the first month of university, the window of time where it’s still okay to make introductions in the hallway will pass you by. After that, you’ll become known as the one who is only ever seen disappearing into their room. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot before you’ve even started! Go out. Be awkward if you have to, but make that effort to go out.
Tip #10: Make more plans for the future!
A year might seem like a long time, so don’t let it get the drop on you. Take advantage of every free weekend. Fill up your time so you’re not sitting in your room wasting the hours away. Plan stuff with all the new people you meet! Once the ball starts rolling, and you start to feel more comfortable in your new home, don’t lose the momentum. Get out there and enjoy that study abroad!