Written by: Iman M.
1. Get to know the locals.
Often, the best conversations and hidden gems are found among the locals. The best way to immerse yourself in the culture of the region is to really become a local yourself. Explore every nook and cranny of the region you are in. Talk to locals, find out their stories, ask them questions like, their favourite cafés, what they do in their free time – the list is endless. Most people will be thrilled that you want to learn more about their culture and city. These conversations will enhance your overall experience, and you might make a new friend along the way.
2. Navigation is important to think about
Need to get somewhere? Not quite sure what that sign says? People generally want to help, so don’t hesitate to ask for guidance if needed. Also, Google Maps will be your best friend. Downloading their maps requires wifi, but pulling up the map again doesn’t require any data, and will be super helpful with showing you exactly how to get from point A to point B if you don’t have a local SIM card or access to wifi.
3. Embrace Solitude
Sometimes, feeling lonely or homesick are normal, common, and fleeting emotions. If spending time alone is out of your comfort zone, practice prior to your trip by going on solo day trips or doing small activities on your own in your hometown. Additionally, visiting new places, taking up a new hobby, or learning a new skill (such as the local language) are steps you can take to get back on track and feel like yourself again.
4. Do some research
Both prior to and during your trip, immerse yourself in what the city has to offer – restaurants, parks, monuments, modes of transportation, currency, etiquette, and so on. There are a plethora of blogs, apps, and videos that can help you familiarize yourself with the culture and lifestyle. And your placement coordinator will be there every step of the way too! Just ask and they will be able to help.
5. Document your trip.
While it’s important not to miss out on the world unfolding around you, remember to document your experience every now and then, whether it’s through photos, videos, or written journals. It also serves as a way to share moments from your trip and stay connected with family and friends back home. You might inspire someone else to follow in your footsteps, too!
Working abroad for the first time pushes you outside your comfort zone and gives you ample opportunities to learn, explore, and meet new people. Have a plan but remember to have fun and go with the flow on this experience of a lifetime. The rest will fall into place.