A home away from home

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Coming to the Netherlands, away from home for the first time. International master student Artifical Intelligence Priyanka Singhvi missed her home more than she would have ever imagined.  Based on het experiences she comes with four advices to make studying in Utrecht bearable. 

We say that we all live in a world that is far more connected than what it used to be. We say in a sense that the world is getting smaller and smaller. But if that were true, why is it that so many of us students, who leave our countries for the first time, have this dragging feeling of loneliness that enshrouds our days in a foreign land?

Coming to the Netherlands, away from my home for the first time, I realized two things really fast.

1) It was nothing like I thought it would be.
For instance, here I always walk on the right side of the road  and get everywhere by bike. I come from a country where we pride ourselves in organised chaos and have more means of transport than the layers in the crust of the Earth. But, this took getting used to!

2) And I missed my home more than I would have ever imagined.
An instance that describes this when I came back home pretty late from the library, and felt so tired that I did not have the energy to cook food. So I slept on an empty stomach. This has happened multiple times, and every time it makes me miss home cooked food and the occasional rants of my mother to come to the dinner table right away.

Our minds don’t take change really well, and that is evident from the fact that as soon as we come to another country/place, we start comparing it with everything back home. The food, the people, the faces, the language. This does nothing to help us. It just sucks us deeper and deeper into an abyss of sadness and a deep desire to be associated with home in some form.

The other thing that I realized, that made it harder for internationals to adjust well in a foreign country was that internationals tend to stick to their 'own pack', only because, it makes them feel a little wanted and reminds them of “home” in some form.  But such feelings are short-lived and do no one any good.  All this in turn translates into our experiences in the new place as, not the best, to say the least. 

So I came up with four little things that you can change, to make your study experiences abroad [specially for the first timers] as seamless as possible:

1) Learn about the country/ place that has accepted you. That would be your way of preparing and recalibrating your thoughts and expectations so that you don’t land totally unaware and lost.

2) Do not stick to your own pack. Mix around, especially with the locals. Ask them questions if you have to, and do not be afraid to make mistakes. The world is very forgiving, and by the time the world comes to terms with your embarrassing attempts at learning, something else will always come up which will be funnier or more viral for them to see.

3) Learn the language. I cannot stress how important this is. Accepted, that most countries have a majority of people who understand and speak English, but knowing the language of a place will make people more comfortable in talking to you. In addition, they will appreciate your efforts and go that extra mile to help you out.

4) Exchange cultures, food and stories about your home with the locals. Locals are always curious about people who come from  'exotic' lands. I am sure you will enjoy singing praises of your country or sharing your country’s food as much as the locals will enjoy experiencing it.

As a final piece of advice, 'never compare' your past experiences with your current ones. Each place has its own beauty and way of life. That is what makes the world so unique. To be honest, if there was no diversity in the world, we would get bored of the new place in 2 days.

If we learn to accept things and adapt to them, we will slowly, but surely realize that, we have found 'a home away from home'.

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