Are you moving to a whole new place to start school this fall? Uprooting yourself to go live in a different city or country can be totally thrilling, but it can also get a little lonely at times. Feeling unsure of your surroundings can be incredibly daunting and disorienting; however, this period of uncertainty is one to be enjoyed, rather than feared. Once you begin to explore your surroundings, each step you take will carry you closer to feeling settled in your new home.
Be a tourist in your own city
Abandon any pretensions of not wanting to do anything “touristy” and embrace being a tourist wholeheartedly while you still can. You’re not a local, it’s not a secret, and it’s time to do your research. Buy a guide book, read the entertainment section of local newspapers or magazines, and fire up the Google. Websites like Lonely Planet, Google Maps, Yelp, CitySearch, and Urbanspoon will not only help you find your way around, but might lead you to your future favourite spots to eat, shop, and hang out.
Google Maps actually has a feature where you can input your address, type an asterisk (*) into the “search nearby” bar, and the map will retrieve a list of establishments indicated near your location. You can also browse through some independent local foodie or fashion blogs, or even search the name of your city on Instagram, if you can distinguish photos of cool places or beautiful scenery from the ocean of selfies.
Bring a bit of home with you
No matter where you go or how much you change as a result, it’s important to remember who you are, where you have been, and where you came from. Plenty of incoming students think of university as a fresh start, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, the desire for change and the desire for familiarity are not mutually exclusive terms! For example, my first-year roommate was used to moving around. Having spent her childhood living in a new country every two or three years, she had gotten into the habit of decorating her bedroom – regardless of the house, city, or country in which it happened to be – with the same posters, framed photos, art prints, and knick-knacks. Wherever she went, her room was a constant. Here are some other ideas to decorate your room.
Another great way of incorporating your old life into your new one is to keep your hobbies active. Doing something that you a) enjoy and b) are accustomed to doing is a great way to help you feel happy and comfortable in a new place, not to mention meet people in the community with similar interests! Join a local yoga or dance studio, tennis court, running club, swimming pool, electronic music scene, gaming shop, soccer club – the possibilities are endless.
Get acquainted with your surroundings
Exploring a new place does involve stepping beyond the perimeter of your apartment, and you might have to get comfortable exploring solo. My only recommendation would be to arm yourself with some sort of map or navigation device before you go (although getting lost and bumbling your way around is one of my favourite ways to explore a new place! Some of the best things in the city can be hidden in plain sight), and not to worry about walking around or eating out alone. In a new city, it’s understandable that cruising around flanked by a complete entourage of friends would be a bit of a luxury. Relationships take time to build, and you’ll make friends eventually. In the meantime, the anonymity of being a nameless face in the crowd can be incredibly liberating. Embrace being able to do what you want, when you want to do it.
First, get the essentials down by finding your local grocery store, pharmacy, walk-in health clinic, tech repair shop, and train station or bus terminal. Establish your favourite haunts – a coffee shop with a cookie you like, a bookstore without any aggressive salespeople, a movie theatre with the plushiest chairs, a quiet study nook beside the window in the library, a restaurant with cheap brunch on weekends, a park to relax in and people-watch on sunny days. These places will become familiar and favourite haunts over time, and one day you will be there with company.