If you’re like me, then you A, have no idea what you’re going to do post-graduation, and B, are thinking of making the move abroad. While at Drexel, I’ve taken every opportunity to experience living, working and studying abroad. This past summer I studied abroad in Prague with a great group of fellow students. Everyone should study abroad while they have the chance because your university will generally set everything up for you. The previous fall term I spent 3 months of my co-op in Dublin, completely alone, and had to get used to an unfamiliar city by myself, find my own housing, and adjust to a new job with minimal support. I made many mistakes while trying to adjust and subsequently learned many important lessons that anyone looking to live alone abroad will need to learn.
Housing: Think Long-term
Don’t get too overwhelmed with the idea of having to learn the local public transportation system. Don’t get caught up in the charm of the city and think that’s the only place to be. If you do, then like me, you will opt to spend way too much money on a place centrally located. I could walk to work in about 2 minutes, but I was completely broke. To rub salt in the wound, I got used to the buses and trains within a week. Think carefully about your finances and be willing to adapt if you have to live outside of your target area.
|The kitchen in my adorable and outrageously expensive Dublin apartment right off O’Connell Street.|
Network for Friends
Work can be one of the best places to make friends. People can be wary to get too close to coworkers because of the whole “don’t date your coworkers” taboo. Definitely still don’t do that. Definitely do become friends with your coworkers. In reality the best and easiest way to meet new people is through the friends you make at work. There are also great sites like Meetup.com where people with similar hobbies can meet up to do those things together. Don’t be embarrassed to have to use these; making friends where you know no one is extremely difficult.
Attend Community Events
Community events such as flea markets are great for meeting locals or other ex-pats who are a wealth of knowledge in the goings on around town. The local newspaper is also a great and underused resource for finding out about upcoming community events.
Most Importantly: Be an Educated Ex-Pat
Those who don’t follow this rule sadly are the reason why the “ignorant American” stigma exists. I’ve encountered the prejudice many times, not just in Dublin but everywhere I’ve traveled outside the US. Before you go abroad you absolutely need to educate yourself on the culture and language of the area you are moving to. You need to know how things are done in everyday situations and business situations. You should know if certain phrases or hand gestures are considered offensive. You should most definitely know more than a handful of sentences and words that will get you through everyday conversations without having to make a ton of alarming hand gestures. Drexel had us take a class on the culture and language of the Czech Republic before we went off to study abroad and it was completely invaluable. It showed the locals that we were truly interested in their culture. Another thing you should do to make yourself an educated Ex-Pat is to read the local newspaper and stay up to date on what is going on in your home country. In my experience, particularly in Ireland, the locals are extremely interested on what is going on in America and expect you to know all about it.
|My job clearly made my adjustment period much shorter.|
Everyone’s experience and adjustment period will be a little different. As long as you leave prepared and with a willingness to adapt to the situation as it changes you should experience little to no trouble. Good luck to all those going abroad.