Five Reasons to Explore your Host Country
Studying abroad is all about getting out of your comfort zone. While away people vow to see every monument, travel to every country nearby and to take as many photographs as possible. The desire to see everything can sometimes make the host country lose its sparkle in comparison. It doesn’t help that the majority of the time flights are so cheap and easily accessible once you’re abroad.
Before you start planning all your weekends with trips to places such as Amsterdam and Florence leave some space for your host country. There is a reason why you are studying abroad, don’t just use it as a home base when it holds just as much excitement and opportunity to explore as the other destinations on your checklist. Here are some things to keep in mind while studying abroad.
Even the familiar has something to offer. Although I love exploring and trying new things. It is important to find little places of familiarity. Where I live there is a little pub down the street from me, my abroad friends and I will go for a meal whenever we don’t feel like cooking. It is a laid-back British pub where we can all hang out and have a few laughs. They have some great deals and every Sunday they offer a roast with portions so big you could make it into two meals. These places are easily overlooked as they are not tourist attractions. However, these places are strongholds where the locals go and a great opportunity to meet new people. These hideaways are the heart of the town, and if you’re lucky enough to find one – keep it close to you.
You will get to know the people. Whether you take that as meet them personally, or observe them is up to you. I have experienced both. One of my favorite things to do when getting to a new town is sitting and watching. Something I learned during my time here so far is that everyone dresses very nicely. When you sit and observe, you hear the varying languages, accents and stories. I think I have learned the most about being a Londoner by observing. Tube etiquette is easily learned by watching those around you and seeing how they react to little happenings going on. Making friends is also very likely, especially if you’re friendly. There are some extremely sweet people open to making friends that are only a greeting away. They can be your new Facebook friends, Instagram followers, and who knows, maybe a lifetime friend if you meet the right people. Either way, how exciting is it to have friends from different countries.
You never know where you will find a Kodak-Moments. I am a huge fan of taking pictures. I am constantly looking for interesting angles of doors or trees that would look marvelous in a frame. If you’re wandering around your tiny area you can find little marvels such as these. This Sunday I woke up early before my roommate, threw on some sneakers and ventured out for a little exploring. In my little adventure around the residential area where I live I found a pink door. I stopped to document it, who knows why but I am glad that I did. Although London neighborhoods are littered with colorful doors, pink was an interesting color choice in my eyes. I had walked this route hundreds of times walking into town or to get to school in the morning but I have never noticed it before. It will forever remind me of my walk to school, and what I could be missing if I don’t look up more
You will have more time to make memories. The first week that I got here I got lost with a few of my friends. And by lost I mean for an hour, in the pouring rain. The sad part is we knew where we were going, we just took one wrong turn and could not find our way back to the main street. Unlike America, London is designed on a grid system, where nothing really connects the way we are used to. This sounds awful, I am sure you’re reading this wondering why this miserable story is being included. The truth is, looking back on it now we all laugh. We later learned that we were almost home before we finally decided to turn around. My point is, the more time you spend hanging around your temporary home the more memories you will make.
When will you ever LIVE abroad ever again? Think about it. Everyone always claims they want to travel in their life but rarely are those goals met. Even if they are, these trips are sparse and for weeks at a time. When you study abroad you live abroad, for a month, three months, or a year. For however long you are a temporary resident of your spectacular new world – experience it is a citizen. Gawk at the tourists for standing on the left side of the escalator. Question the people that don’t know how to cross the street without hesitation. You’ll soon find yourself shocked at how you once were just as clueless as the tourists. Adopt the locals’ mentality and run with it because before you know it you will be back in America dreaming of the world you once explored.
Studying abroad is a once and a life opportunity. The sooner you realize it, the sooner you will crave everything around you. Most importantly, indulge yourself every once in a while during your stay.
This content was contributed by Carly Neduscin, who is studying abroad this Spring on an AIFS Customized Faculty-Led Program in London, England through Temple University.