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How to survive the first week in a new country

The big day is coming closer. Soon you will move to a new country. Do you feel a little bit lost or stressed? That's totally normal! I know the feeling. With this article I want to help you handle these overwhelming feelings.

Moving to another country is always exciting, in both, the positive and negative way. Besides the happiness of finally moving to the city of your dreams and living the life you always wanted, you may feel stressed or anxious, and as soon as you’ll be sitting in the plane or train your heart will be racing like it wants to win the Fomula 1. At least, this is what I felt the first time, and even the second, even though the second time I was much more organized. There’s always something uncertain that makes you flip out. The effects of moving to another country are incredible and hard to describe.

How do all these feelings come up?

There are many things that can cause anxiety or stress in a new city, especially when you’re also in a new country: a new job, the public transportation, all administrative stuff – this is already annoying back home, so you can imagine it to be hell when you move abroad. You feel like there are countless challenges when you move to another country. Everything takes so much more time before you get used to it, even buying a simple bus ticket. No matter how many articles and guides about how to move abroad you’ve already read, you will never be 100% prepared for the feeling you have when you get on the train. When you start feeling this crazy mix of emotions inside your chest, don’t freak out. Take a deep breath and relax for a second. Think about that you get a great opportunity some people will never experience.

How to make it through the first week

The key to having a good first week in your new city is above all, to prepare yourself before moving abroad. Do some research on the city and the quarter where you will stay, join forums and talk to people who already lived there and have advice for you. Check for supermarkets or other places you might need in advance. Try to find a job before relocating, this will take a lot of pressure from your shoulders and you can focus on other things like looking for accommodation. If you should need help organizing yourself, here are seven steps you should take during the first week, one for each day. You can set them as little goals you want to reach. These little moments of success will make you feel better.

Day 1: Get all your essentials and check out the neighbourhood

first week abroad

Depending on where you moved in you will need several things for everyday use. Do you have a pillow and blanket to sleep? What about shampoo, tooth paste and coffee? Look for some grocery shops in the area and compare prices. While walking around you can already discover the area, before going on the real discovery tour. Do you have nice restaurants around the corner? Some interesting bars you want to try? If you like jogging, there are apps like Runnin'City that help you to find the best route in your area to discover the nicest spots.

Day 2: Start looking for accommodation

Did you decide to move into a temporary room first? If so, don’t wait too long until you start looking for a new flat. Depending on your budget you can hire an agent to help you find the best flat in a quarter that fits you best. With this option you have less stress and don’t run the risk to end up in a quarter that you don’t like at all. If you don’t want to pay anyone, start asking around in Facebook groups or at meet up events. Even your future employer might have some tips.

Day 3: Open a bank account

Depending on the country you want to move to you might need some specific papers to open a bank account. In France for example you need a tenancy agreement. This means, living in an Airbnb room will not be enough to open an account. The best option is to set up online banking while you’re still at home. If you didn’t think about doing this, there are several mobile banks like N26 or Hello bank where you can open a new account online.

Try to find out during the first weeks, how much money you will need on average per week, so you can set your weekly budget.

Day 4: Figure out how to go to work

study abroad stress

I hope you already found a job, so you have one problem less to solve. Now you only have to figure out, how to get to the office and how long it takes. Do you want to take the subway or to go by bus? Maybe it’s not so far, so you can even take the bike. Gather information about every option and try them all. Which one do you like best? If you didn’t find your dream job yet, visit Next Station and we’ll give our best to help you ASAP.

Day 5: Keep up with your hobbies

What do you usually do in your free time? Do you play an instrument or do sports? Don’t give this up when you move abroad. Look for sport clubs, gyms, choirs, music schools – or whatever your hobbies are – in your new city. This will not only provide a good work-life-balance as soon as you start your new job, but you can also meet new people and maybe make your first friends.

Day 6: Start making new friends

If your hobbies usually don’t include many people, try to meet them somewhere else. Talk to the neighbours, join meet up groups, go to bars and talk to the bar keeper, there are plenty of possibilities to build your new network. Do you live in a shared flat? Get to know your flatmates first. One day they will ask you to go out with their friends and you will meet new people again.

To meet even more people, don’t cook but go out to eat, and subscribe to a language school.

Day 7: Take time for you

first week studying abroad

After running around the whole week, discovering the area and meeting new people, it’s time to relax a little bit. Take a bath, read a book, do whatever makes you happy. Plus: call your family and friends. I’m sure you’ve been texting them from time to time and your mom probably already called you a hundred times, but they will appreciate when it’s you who calls this time. It’s not the best thing for everyone, but if you need to share your thoughts you can also write them down. This could be a nice moment to start writing a diary or maybe even create short stories around your experience. Doing this, you might even realize what else you’d like to know about the city, so you can tackle this adventure during the next week!

Some additional tips

To really settle during the first week, don’t invite any friends or family; they can still visit you afterwards. In case you should feel lonely, always have something that makes you think about good times at home like your favourite pillow, photos of your family and friends, your little teddy bear, etc.

On the money side, the best is when you have enough savings to move before starting to work. It will give you enough time to discover the city and find out everything you need to know. Maybe you can even plan short holidays in the country to learn more about its culture. If not, write a personal bucket list, what you want to do while living in your new city and do all of it step by step.

In the end, you will probably not do all of it in the first week, but I hope most of it! Don’t keep pushing it to the future, as soon as it’s done, you’ll feel relieved. So, how do you feel about living and working in a different country? Are you ready to take the challenge? If the answer is "yes", your new life can start.

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