Number 1: Stop planning. Your Erasmus experience is definitely not going to be as you have imagined it back home. Don’t worry, that’s quite a good thing though. Stop thinking about it and enjoy the things that happen in your life.
Number 2: Stop comparing. Ok, so there is no place that sells that delicious sour cream dip from back home. And the supermarket at the corner doesn’t sell the latest Cosmopolitan. No reason to panic. You have to accept that you’re in another country where many things might be handled differently to what you’re used to. Start thinking of it as a possibility to discover even better things and enjoy the diversity. That’s how I found a even better sour cream dip – Jackpot!
Number 3: The first days will be difficult. What I learned in university several weeks ago has now become the truth. There are 5 steps of the famous cultural shock: honeymoon stage, misunderstanding, crisis, recovery and adjustment. In other words, you’re definitely going to think that your Erasmus semester will be the best experience of your life (by the way, it is), but after arriving you’re going to realize that there are a lot of things that you didn’t expect. You expected sun, but actually it’s raining. You expected to find a whisk in your kitchen, wrong. You thought that there are enough plugs in your room, also wrong. After your exhausting journey, those little things and the fact that you’re completely alone without your family and friends in a foreign country will depress you… a lot. Everyday you’ll find other little inconveniences that will freak you out. But you will recover from that really quick, so don’t hang your head! There’s a new family awaiting you!
Number 4: You think you know yourself? Meep. Apart from the fact that you’re going to discover the culture of your host country, at first you’re definitely going to get to know yourself. As an exchange student you have to face a lot of unexpected things and decisions. You’ll say the sentence “I’ve never done that before in my entire life.” more often than you want to. For example, I never thought that I would be able to go out every single day, to get up for university every morning and actually like that kind of lifestyle. Something’s running completely wrong here.
And this leads us to number 5: You’re going to party a lot, whether you like it or not. After my first week in Spain with a maximum of only 2 hours of sleep a day I thought that this will never happen again. Never. I thought it’s just the first week with all the welcome parties and I didn’t want to miss one because I was still trying to find new friends. But now, after a month, I realized that partying is being considered as an exchange student’s responsibility and you can’t avoid it, even if you want to. There are no excuses, it doesn’t matter if you have to write an essay or if you’re ill or if you just want to peacefully watch a movie. The only response you’ll get is: Get out of bed, we’re leaving in 10 minutes. The good thing is: Your body gets used to it, you’ll be less tired and what is more, you’ll really experience some unexpected amazing nights. You can sleep back home, sleep’s overrated anyway.