It is easy to move through spaces and moments in life thinking you could do better or be better. Now what is hard is taking a beat and acknowledging what you’ve done, and patting yourself on the back. Perhaps we expect that from friends, family, and society but it is very important to do it for ourselves. Moving to a new country is a big change and if you took a couple of gap years to recharge & relax, travel, or work after undergrad, then I’d say getting back into studies is no walk in the park, at least for me.

It is so exciting to get the opportunity to move abroad and to study a course you have been dreaming about but it can be incredibly stressful to find a rhythm. You might be having a lot of expectations of yourself, eager for everything to come together at once but I want you to know this could take longer than you might have thought, however, everyone moves at different paces. As an international student, moving is not just about what you will be doing within your university program but you are going to experience a range of things on different levels. Here are a few examples of what I mean:

  • The experience of hearing a new language.
  • The experience of new road networks/places you need to memorize.
  • The experience of new food and finding what you are familiar with.
  • The experience of locals who seem to breeze smoothly through spaces because they are used to it.
  • Perhaps the experience of study routines and patterns not developing as quickly as you want them to.

It’s important to acknowledge that you are not just studying 24/7 but also taking care of your health, diet, hobbies, new connections, present relationships, world events, engaging in new things, trying to grow, and challenge yourself. If you ask me that is a lot to be taking in. When I first got to Uppsala, I was so eager to know all the cute corner street cafes, places with the best student discounts, the picturesque sceneries because if I wasn’t, I felt like I was missing out on something I moved so far away to experience. Sometimes the expectation to let loose and be in the moment can be a source of anxiety.  

So dear reader, I hope that you can relate to some of the pain points I mentioned because here comes the cavalry – some tips I hope will give you a breather and save you undue stress. I’m sure by now it is no news to you that the level of preparation it takes to embark on this journey is immense, hectic with a lot of moving parts. In my case, I took all the stress from leaving home and let it spill all over my new experience, and I certainly would not want you radiating that same energy into your brand new environment. Sure, we are bound to make mistakes, but a friend of mine once told me “don’t make the same old mistakes, make new ones.” J So here are my two cents on what to do to fend off some anxiety that could creep in ever so often before your trip or when you are settling in.

  • Before you leave your home country, take a few days after packing and organizing your trip to completely wind down and rest. A few days of doing absolutely nothing.
  •  You may not realize this but you are taking on a lot, so acknowledge that and go at your pace and no one else’s.
  • Invest in your self-trust, trust yourself enough not to overthink activities you should be part of or getting through the texts assigned by your professor. Trust yourself enough to know you will do your best.
  • Take it easy on yourself and let your mind catch up with your body or vice versa.
  • Take pictures of yourself, new and old things, your room before you decorate it, the first bus stop you stood at, a view of the airfield before you landed in Sweden for the first time… Why? It gives you a sense of how far you have come and gives you a lift to know you are growing and doing great. It’s also great to look back on your early days, like a sort of nostalgic savings account you will appreciate later 😉

We may often forget, amid coursework and our day-to-day activities but if you need to hear it one more time I’m here to say it, “Dear international student, be super kind to you!”