The first week of your exchange is usually filled with excitement, expectations and everything new. If you have an introduction week like I did at Sussex University, you will meet people from all over the world, fill your head to the brim with informations about your new school, get confused about timetables, maps and the campus and just generally have incredibly much going on.
My introduction week at Sussex is the third time I am moving to a new country and start over again and after one or two “first” weeks somewhere you realize some things, that might be helpful for you guys:
1. You will be okay once you start traveling.
Before every trip, every move, every new start you will feel anything from excited to anxious. The last days at home before you fly out are usually extremely stressful and emotionally challenging. They are so many goodbyes during that time, so much left to do and not being able to sleep or having to cry, because of the littlest things is totally normal. However for me (and a lot of people I talked to) as soon as you start your journey and you are on your way to your new home the anxiety will get better, mainly because after months of thinking and talking about your trip, you finally start going on it and you will soon realize that while a move across Europe or even across continents is a challenge, that if you take it step by step you can absolutely do it.
2. It´s okay to take care of yourself first
At least in the first few weeks you are in this alone. So you need to start taking care of yourself as good as possible. If after a long journey you are tired and all you want to do is sleep, it is fine to skip one pub night (trust me there will be loads to come) and just relax. If you need alone time in between all those introduction talks and meetings that is fine. If you are too tired to cook, it is fine to just order a pizza If you do not feel comfortable with the people you first hang out with, it´s okay to talk to other people. Being a little selfish during the first weeks of your exchange is okay and necessary. Listen to your gut and learn to trust yourself.
3. It´s okay to just start talking to strangers
Worrying too much about not finding friends is unnecessary. In the first week everyone is more than happy to have someone to talk to so if you just start talking to a stranger sitting next to you in a lecture or someone who looks just as lost as you are they will probably be thankful. Invite people for a coffee and get to know them better.After introduction week try to get involved in sports or clubs at your exchange university to meet local people with the same interests as you. Generally just talk to as many people as possible and smile at everyone. Try not to only hang out people from your home country or your school, but make it your goal to at least chat with a new person every day.
4. It´s okay if your first week is also your most expensive one
In your first week you will probably spend more money than in any other week of your exchange. You will spend ridiculous amounts on airport food. You will totally mess up your budget for public transport because you have no idea about discounts. You will go to the most expensive supermarket by accident and the drinks at all these bar nights will slim your wallet more than any crash diet. It is fine. Start budgeting once you settled in, use the introduction meetings to ask for the cheapest options and don´t worry too much if you spend a little too much in the beginning.
In general be nice to yourself the first week. Starting new is never easy and it is extremely stressful emotionally. So be good to yourself and do not sweat the small stuff. Be merry, go out, have a good time and just enjoy the start of this new chapter of your life. Hope you have a great introduction week!