As international student, the adaptation process is different than the first time when I moved out to San Francisco, and also different from most of my classmates. I was the only international student in the Madrid program and I enjoyed my adaptation process. I would love to say that there is a pattern for international students adaptation processes but I would be lying. There are many factors that will influence your experience and will make your adaptation process slightly different from what the books say. Here are couple of questions that could help you to have an idea of how you adaptation process could look like
- Are you getting closer or further from home?: As Latina, family is very important for me. Saying goodbye to my parents broke something inside me that I can’t explain. I still remember my dad crying and asking my host mom to take care of me. As a consequence, anywhere closer to home, is a better place to be. From San Francisco the there’s no direct flight to Caracas, Venezuela (my city), in comparison with Madrid that has multiple option to flight to Caracas (direct flights, cheaper prices and usually faster flights). I haven’t been back home due to the situation and the fact that I’ve been busy with school application and getting ready for school. However, it’s a relief to be one step closer, and in case of emergency, I won’t go bankruptcy if I have to flight back home. This will help you adaptation process depending on what home means for you. I’ve always missed home, my family and my friends, however, I do enjoy my independence. So, is being closer to home a good thing for you?
- Do you have a love relationship? Will you be closer or further from that person?: I already know the talk that “you shouldn’t let anyone stop you from following your dreams” and I’ve always applied that to my life, and I’ve proved it multiple times, especially leaving my parents at 17 years old. Nonetheless, I don’t judge you if your relationship means a lot for you and this scares you. As international students, we’ve lost many things, we don’t get home to our parents and dinner served, we cry in our friends’ shoulder because mom is too far away and maybe sleeping due to the time change. A relationship based on true love and real partnership means a lot for an international student, that’s the person that we relay on when we need a favor, that’s our go-to person EVERY SINGLE DAY. And it’s time to admit that this might affect you adaptation process when traveling abroad. My relationship affected my experience abroad, but in a positive way. I have a long distance relationship with my girlfriend who is from Italy, during my internship in Madrid, being 2-hours flight away was like a dream. We traveled together to Paris, she came to Madrid, and then I visited Italy with her, it was daydreaming. Undoubtedly, this made my adaptation process way happier and smooth. I know that this might not be your case, if you will face the reality of being apart from that person during your study abroad experience, don’t freak out! Everything is going to be okay, you guys love each other and it’s easier than it seems. My recommendation is to make a plan with your significant other, let them know that you will go abroad, make them part of your planning process and -if they have the possibilities- invite them to come visit you and travel together (I guarantee that you don’t need to be millionaire to travel in Europe and have a blast). At the end, this process will make the relationship more mature and stable. This is my experience!
- Is this places more like home or less like home?: Think about how similar -or not similar at all- this place is from you hometown. There are a few factors that could make your experience abroad more or less challenging, such as language, weather, proximity to the beach, public transportation quality, expensive -or inexpensive- cities, acceptance to homosexuality, women’s right, tolerance to people with disabilities, and open-mindedness in general. When you are choosing your city, or studying the city that you already chose, think about how close or how far you want this new culture to be from yours. Madrid felt like home for me, and I had long time without feeling that warmth in my heart. Spain speaks my native language, during summer the temperature remains me of Venezuela -sometimes it was a little bit too hot-, public transportation is really good (Venezuela doesn’t have public transportation but for me it’s very important, because I’m used to use public transportation everyday), in the metro closes at 1:30am and opens at 6:00am so I went party around 1am and came back home around 6:30am, didn’t spend any money in Uber and I felt safe. Madrid is not an expensive city if you compared to San Francisco, food is delicious and cheap (plus, there are multiple Venezuelan restaurants). But most importantly, Madrid is a very open-minded city, it’s acceptance to the LGBTQ+ community made me feel welcomed, it’s compromise with social justice is undeniable, and it’s a city that speaks out loud what it thinks. These are all factors you might want to consider before choosing the city, and these factors will give you a sense of how comfortable you will feel in this new city. Remember: never jeopardize your safety for the curiosity of visiting a city, as a member of the LGBTQ+ community I would never choose a country were homosexuality is banned and penalized with 10 years in jail, don’t do that to yourself, you deserve better!
What is your definition for home?