13 Tips to Make Transitioning to College Abroad Way Easier

There is no doubt that finishing high school is a very relieving, yet stressful time. I think each person goes through different phases, naturally, and attending university is a critical transition. One is no longer technically under their parents’ wings.

Everyone has different experiences going to university. Some people want to stay where they lived their entire life, and some people want to branch out. For example, I lived in Kuwait my entire life, and I love the country dearly, but I didn’t think twice about going back to Canada when I decided to move to Montreal, whatever the reasons were.

These pointers may not apply to everyone, but if the shoe fits, please do wear it!

I basically left everything behind, and I do not think I fully realized everything at the time. It was a moment of courage, getting on that plane, but I had to do it that way. Everyone has their reasons. Even throughout my senior year, I didn’t think much about Canada. That is not the subject here; I just wish I knew a few things before I left for university.

This is not a guide on how to pass your classes or how to avoid annoying dormitory issues; this is more spiritual and psychological.

These pointers may not apply to everyone, but if the shoe fits, please do wear it! This guide is an accumulation of more than a year of lessons. I had a vague idea, but I wish someone broke it down for me before I left.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far about heading to uni:

1.  Saying goodbyes

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Sure, goodbyes are hard, but they get easier – keep that in mind. I couldn’t bear saying goodbye to my close loved ones; I would cry after leaving them or them leaving me. It just took an emotional toll on me. But, after visiting, the matter gets repetitive, and you know time will pass by quickly. Tell the person that you’ll see them soon, not that you won’t see them in so long. For people you care about, I’m not even joking, create a plan as to how you guys will communicate, especially if there’s a time difference is involved. People change with their schedules, and you just have to roll with the punches.

2.  Get to know your new place

Adjusting to a new place can be difficult. My advice is to TAKE YOUR TIME. Have a game plan that is timely to get to know the place before you start to make decisions. Of course, you can’t know everything all the time, so don’t be shy to ask around! Explore the area and learn to love it. When I first moved to Montreal, I thought moving around was so hard, but now I just say to myself that this place is home, and I actually like taking my time to explore.

3.  Make your religion a priority

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Getting caught up with a new place and university can be time-consuming, and if you’re a Muslim like me, or from a religion that includes multiple prayers a day, know where you’re going to do them and when. Set alarms if it helps. God knows how many prayers I missed because I simply didn’t have a reminder. I was so accustomed to the in Kuwait that I just used to forget, especially since I was at university the whole day. I always told myself that I’d “reconnect more” with God when I visit Kuwait again, because it was more Islamic there. That was a mistake, and I learned that in Kuwait. Connecting with God is not tied down to a place; it is to be done anywhere if you set your mind to it – never lose focus.

4.  Trust your intuition

There were many situations I was placed in where everything seemed fine, and it seemed that I should go through with whatever, but there was something in the back of my mind that was telling me not to do it, and I didn’t. Trust your gut; it knows you, and how you think when you aren’t exactly in the place to analyze the situation. It can be as simple to what route to take or becoming friends with someone.

5.  You can’t rebuild the exact same life you had, so stop trying

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It’s time to conquer your fears and meet new people, create new memories and build on yourself. How do we do this? By meeting new people that might not have the same interests as us, come from different backgrounds – and yes, may even have differing views. It’s so simple to want to be thrown into the same life you once had, but how are we to grow if that is all we have. Adventure out and add variety.

6.  Don’t stress about finding friends; it will happen

Making friends doesn’t happen right away.  Do not feel that you’re not good enough or any degrading thing like that because you’re not making friends. My first semester of university, I had one friend that I would hang out with, and I would always compare that to the huge group I had back home. I realized that it’s quality not quantity, and that this friend was actually amazing. Plus, friends introduce you to their friends; it just takes time. I didn’t really find a group until February, five months into the academic year. Riding solo let me find a lot about myself, so some time alone is not that bad, either.

7.  Don’t have crazy expectations for your love life

In all the movies I’ve seen, girls would fall in love with a guy at university, and that’s where “the real thing” happened. But that’s not always true.  Relationships, like friendships, take time.  Don’t be afraid to feel what you want, but don’t stress about finding love, either.

8.  It’s okay to  miss your family, friends, and home

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If you’re close to your family, just know, yes, you are allowed to miss them that much, and it is normal; that distance can take an emotional toll on you. Be proud of yourself: You are going through familial and friendship changes, along with self-growth, and you’re doing it alone.  That’s amazing, and you’re awesome.  You’re allowed to miss people in general. I felt that I was weak because I was missing people and that I was too invested and should back away, and that’s not true. Moving away is a real test of how you deal with emotions and who’s worth staying in your life.

9.  Don’t give up

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There were many times where I felt like giving up and just going to Canada back again later when I felt I was ready. There are the kind of pushes you need that help you, and some make it worse. Telling yourself that you can do it is simple but extremely important.  Find distractions if you get lonely; try to do something fun.

10.  Ditch bad influences ASAP

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From the first time, if you feel like someone is a bad influence, don’t give them a second glance if they do something you think is wrong. This often leads to more mishaps. Don’t look back just because you are desperate to build a life and make friends; there are plenty of good people to build friendships and relationships with.

11.  Travel

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Any opportunity you get to travel; do it. Not even by plane, go by bus. Plan everything through, and go. Take a road trip; you’ll have so much fun, and there’s probably lots of places to explore, especially since you’re new here.

12.  Have an open mind

Know that everything you are doing is for your growth, and always think of the possibilities. Every day is different and you’ll learn something new, even if it’s small. Always be a big spirit, be enthusiastic about the little things, and you’ll find things more enjoyable and feel thankful for whatever comes your way.

13.  Know that no matter what, you’ll be okay.

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Everything will be okay in the end.  If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.  This is a learning experience; have fun!