Dear Danielle, my name is Nick and I was just accepted to do a 24 week internship in Colombia. I’m so excited to embark on this new journey! At the same time, I’m nervous about being away from my friends and family for so long. Do you have any tips for living abroad to make a new place feel like home?
Dear Nick, thanks so much for your message. If my time living in different states in the US, studying abroad in Europe, and now gaining work experience in South America has taught me anything, it’s the importance of being flexible and easily adaptable. Living in a new place isn’t always easy (the best things never are) and 24 weeks abroad is a good amount of time away from home. Hopefully the following tips for living abroad will help you assimilate more in your new life in Colombia, and any other move you make in the future.
1. Find your foods
If you’re anything like me, food is an essential part of your life, and usually something worth planning your day around. When I travel to a new place, I always search for recommendations for the best coffeeshops, local dishes, and restaurants in my neighborhood. So yes, step one is finding the foods that make you happy in your new setting. There’s a reason they call it “comfort” food, after all.
2. Find your people
While there’s no shame in eating alone, food can be a very social experience too. Luckily for you, going through a program like The Intern Group makes finding friends easier, as you’ll be living and attending social events with other international interns. Hang out with them. Befriend them. Share food with them. Cook with them. Ask them for their food recommendations too.
3. Find your spots
Now that you’ve got friends and understand the culinary scene in your new city, your next step is finding your hang out spots. Whether it’s a park, a cool lookout of the city, or a town square, before you know it, you’ll find your favorite go-to place. Sometimes the best way to find these spots is accidentally. Walk around your new city and give yourself the chance to stumble upon them.
4. Find a way to practice the language
You’ll likely feel like an outsider if you make zero attempts to try to practice the native tongue of the country you’re interning abroad in. The world is your classroom though. Practice your new language skills with everyone you meet, from the person ringing up your groceries, to the vendors at street markets.
5. Find your activity
Whether it’s hiking, yoga, joining a sports team, attending religious services, etc. it’s so important to find something that makes you feel at peace with yourself and your surroundings. Luckily for current expats, we have this great thing called the internet. It’s so easy nowadays to log on to Facebook to find expat groups, or apps like Meetup to find groups of people who enjoy doing the same things you do, no matter how far away from home you are.
6. Find a balance between keeping in touch with home, while also exploring a new place
They say that communication is key, and in most instances it is, but overly communicating can sometimes be detrimental to your experience. If you find yourself Facetiming home more than you find yourself going to social events around the city with new friends, you’ll miss out by not actually being present. There will be times when you won’t be able to go to events with your new friends. Maybe you have an after office event or it’s your mom’s birthday and you need to Facetime her. Those are understandable exceptions. But take note of all of the other times that you find yourself saying no. Try to say yes to everything (within reason) for a day. You might be surprised by how much you’re holding yourself back by automatically saying no for no reason at all.
7. Find your routine
Great comfort comes from knowing how to plan your time. A big source of my stress is not having a routine, usually. During the week, try to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day. Learn your commutes so that they become second nature. In time, this will all become effortless, but in the beginning it might take some extra time management practice on your end.
Now that you know how to make a new place feel like home thanks to these useful tips for living abroad, learn more about how to boost your career with an internship abroad.
Photos and content by Danielle Ortiz-Geis