The first few days in a brand new city can be an overwhelming experience, whether you’re finding transportation from the airport, figuring out where to buy food, or communicating with the few words of the local language that you know. You’ll soon start to adapt to your new home, though — and quicker than you might think!
However, it’s also likely that a few other challenges might stick around during your time there. Never fear, though — there are plenty of ways to handle these challenges so that you can make the most of this transformative experience without too much distraction, while becoming a stronger, more adaptable person along the way.
Whether you expected to miss absolutely everything from home, or nothing at all, it’s likely that you’ll feel some homesickness at some point during your study abroad.
To manage homesickness, it’s important to keep a good balance of communication with friends and family back home, while continuing to stay engaged in your new home city. It’s a great idea to schedule regular Skype calls with loved ones, but make sure you’re not spending your entire study abroad locked in your room chatting online!
This also includes social media. Avoid the dreaded FOMO (“Fear of Missing Out”) by minimizing the time you spend cruising Facebook and Instagram and hearing about what your friends are up to back home. You’re in Paris, after all! Get out there and take advantage of it.
You can also get involved locally, through volunteering, joining one PSB Paris School of Business' students associations, or even just exploring new neighborhoods or cafes. There’s always something new to discover in Paris, so don’t let the things you miss about home keep you from exploring it!
Figuring out local transportation
So you thought you were an intelligent, functioning adult...until you went to take the bus in a new city and a new language. How could something so simple become so confusing? Luckily, though, you’re certainly not the first well-adjusted, resourceful person to be intimidated by a foreign public transportation system.
When you first arrive, it might be helpful to travel with a friend, so you can figure things out together. You can also check the relevant website for ticketing and schedule information. If all else fails, just go old school — ask for directions! Besides, luckily the public transportation system in Paris is known for being quite user-friendly, so soon you’ll be taking the bus or train like a pro.
Speaking the local language
Learning a language can be one of the most rewarding parts of your study abroad experiences, but may also be one of the most challenging. It can sometimes feel frustrating when even simple interactions that would flow completely naturally in your home language and country seem to require so much more effort.
But language learning is like strengthening a muscle: it might feel sore at first, but before you know it you’ll be comfortably lifting much more than you even imagined before. In the meantime, learn to appreciate each small sign of progress — whether it’s successfully asking for directions, or simply getting comfortable greeting your friends and professors. Rest assured that your language muscles are growing!
Adapting to local foods
Thanks to the endlessly diverse populations that call Paris home, the city is a mecca of different cultures, cuisines, and food options. With that being said, you’ll certainly encounter some foods that are quite different from what you typically eat at home.
Some of them you’ll love (Parisian pastries, anyone?), and some of them you may not (we’ll let you decide those for yourself!). The good news is that in a city as big as Paris, there are foods and ingredients available from all over the world. If you become totally desperate for one of your beloved comfort foods from home, you can most likely find it, whether in a specialty import supermarket or a certain cultural neighborhood.
Above all, remember that all of the challenges that you may face during your study abroad are simply part of being outside of your comfort zone — an admirable and valuable undertaking that shows your curiosity, openness, and adaptability to the world around you.