While Abroad

Make the Most of Your Time Abroad

Participating in an education abroad program can be life changing and exciting, and it can also be remarkably challenging. To navigate these challenges, rely on the resources and support network available to you including your parents, your friends both at home and abroad, the education abroad office, your academic advisor, and your contacts at your host university or program abroad. You’re not alone! Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help when you need it. The personal growth you can experience from education abroad can be unparalleled, especially when you challenge yourself.

COMMUNICATION

Cell Phones Abroad

Some students prefer to purchase a cell phone upon arrival in the host country or use their current cell phone with a new SIM card from the host country. Check with your cell phone carrier to see if your phone will work at your study abroad destination. If so, you may be able to activate the international roaming service that would allow you to receive and make calls while abroad. You can also purchase an international calling card, SIM card, or a local cell phone when you arrive in the host country.

Social Media

Email and Social Media

Email and social media are wonderful ways of staying in touch! Most universities have adequate Internet access on campus and in the housing facilities. Internet cafes are located in cities and towns of all sizes. Of course, be sure to balance your time on social media and chatting with family and friends back home with getting out and experiencing local culture.

#UAlbanyabroad  and #GreatDanesAbroad

We love seeing what you are up to while studying abroad. Be sure to use #UAlbanyAbroad and #GreatDanesAbroad whenever posting photos to social media as it helps connect you to other UAlbany students who are studying abroad. Posts using #UAlbanyAbroad and #GreatDanesAbroad will be shared on our web page and social media sites.

CULTURAL ADJUSTMENT

It is very common to experience some degree of homesickness or difficulty transitioning to a new culture when abroad – even if you have traveled previously. Being in a new and different environment is challenging and takes a little getting used to; some adapt sooner while others need more time. Cultural adjustment issues are very normal and most students experience them to some degree.

Cultural adjustment is defined as personal disorientation in the face of an unfamiliar way of life due to being in a new country or environment. Challenges may include information overload, language barrier, technology gap, and homesickness. Your experience of cultural adjustment will not be the same as that of your fellow students, though you can support one another through this temporary state of being.

On this campus and all others, students beginning college, upon leaving home for the first time, experience and overcome a similar period of unease and reflection. Many miss the comforts of home, focus on obstacles rather than opportunities, and become overwhelmed by the new environment, activities, and people. The overwhelming majority of college students emerge unscathed from these growing pains, and so will you! In fact, if you enter into your program with an open mind, as well as patience for yourself and others, then you will count your decision to study abroad amongst the wisest that you ever made.

After an initial euphoria, in which you “fall in love” with all that your host country has to offer, it is common to feel “down” a few weeks or months into your program. This happens to everyone, even seasoned travelers. Any feelings should be of short duration. The first step in adjustment is to recognize feelings of dissatisfaction, homesickness, and social isolation, then acknowledge that they exist and will pass. After you reconcile yourself to the way things are and even begin to enjoy them, you have adjusted and will make the best of the situation.  When you navigate such changes successfully, you will have developed intercultural competence, with first-hand knowledge of overcoming cultural barriers.

In the meantime, be kind to yourself, even spoil yourself with long walks, your favorite music, meeting up with new friends in a café, planning a weekend away with other students, creating a blog of your experiences, or engaging in pastimes that bring you joy or stress relief.

Be gentle with your parents during this time: they are already worried about you, and by the time they finish hearing about your unhappy state, you will probably have found your balance again.

If you find that negative emotions (anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger) or behaviors (changes in sleep, appetite, substance use) persist and are starting to disrupt your study abroad experience, contact a friend, family member, or local staff as soon as possible, so that they can be of help, or find you appropriate care. If you currently take mood-altering medication, consult with your physician before changing your dosage.

A few helpful tips

  • If you appear to be having difficulties adjusting to new surroundings, please let your program coordinator know. Often, we are able to contact someone at the host university to provide a different perspective on the situation or arrange for appropriate intervention.
  • Do not ‘feed’ depression. In many cases, the problem often solves itself within 24 hours. If you need support, contact your local or UAlbany staff.
  • Stay in touch – but not too often! The acculturation process will be slow if you spend too much time emailing and talking on the phone to family and friends back home. Instead, spend more time exploring the city, making new friends, and learning the ways of the host country.