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Lonely Living: How to combat loneliness while studying abroad

Everyone has felt lonely at some point in their lives. Loneliness is a normal feeling, especially when you are living thousands of miles away from home in an unfamiliar and maybe even daunting place. It’s okay to feel lonely at times, but it becomes a problem when your loneliness debilitates you and stops you from enjoying your daily life. There are many ways to combat loneliness when you go abroad before it reaches such a severe degree:

1. Join a club, committee or team
There are a multitude of clubs, committees and teams on every university campus, full of people who are eager to make new friends and partake in interesting events or fun activities. These committees are also full of international students just like you, who understand your feelings of loneliness. You could pick a club that is centered around something that you have always been passionate about, where you can meet like-minded people who are just as excited about that subject as you are. Or you could join a committee with a topic that you are unfamiliar with in order learn more about that subject and meet interesting people that you would have never met otherwise. You could even do both! The opportunities to learn, meet new people and build close relationships on campus are endless.

2. Connect with fellow expats via expat Facebook groups
Although it may feel like you are the only one in the world dealing with loneliness, you are definitely not alone. You may not realize that there are hundreds of people just like you who are also trying to overcome loneliness and they are only a click away. There are Facebook groups dedicated to expats living in foreign countries, where they discuss what it’s like living in a foreign country and how to deal with any problems you might face. Many people who are studying and traveling abroad join these groups to be a part of a community that understands them. Expat Facebook groups are an excellent source of human companionship and these people know exactly what you are experiencing and would love to help you. You may find that you talk to someone in the group and want to meet them in person or even attend an event organized by the group. You should also stay in touch with your GradTrain coach who has gone through a similar process and experience just a few years back.

3. Stay in touch with your friends from home
Talking to your friends from home is the simplest way to fight your lonely feelings. Your closest friends, those who know you best, are only a Facetime call or text message away. Set up a convenient time for both of you, despite that annoying time difference, and dedicate an hour or so to catch up with them, see what they are up to and share all of your exciting American adventures with them. Although it’s important to keep in touch with your friends from home when you’re feeling sad and lonely, you shouldn’t be talking to them constantly, as it could be a distraction from meeting new people and having amazing experiences. You should find the right balance between speaking to old pals and making new friends in order to settle in and finally feel comfortable in your new environment.
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The importance of improving your English before attending university abroad

Improving your academic English can be one of the most advantageous favors you could do for yourself before arriving on your American university campus. You might have known how to speak colloquial English throughout your life, but while engaged in a lecture or writing an essay, you will need to have a superior understanding of academic English. The English skills that you developed for the TOEFL or IELTS are definitely useful but it does not stop there. The academic words that you learned for the test are not enough, despite having a high score.
Procrastinating your language development would only be a disadvantage to yourself. Your classmates have not only spoken informal English their entire lives, but they have also written, attended class and spoken with professors in high-level academic English many more years than you have. In order to reach, and maybe even surpass, your peers’ English level, follow these preliminary steps.

1. Research and start to learn the vocabulary that is specific to your area of study. You should begin to gain a deeper understanding of your specific academic words and in which context they are used, in order to understand the high-level books you will be reading and the complex lectures that you will have to interpret. Reading academic publications about your area of study is a great way to start. They are full of necessary words and information that you will be expected to know when you arrive on an American university campus. Creating a personal dictionary or glossary is a helpful way to remember the words that you learn.
2. English lectures, classroom discussion and intellectual arguments require a greater level of communication and listening in academic English. In order to communicate effectively with your classmates and have a profound debate, you must develop an ear for conversational and argumentative flow. Listening to English podcasts, such as TED Talks and RadioLab, pertaining to academia or related topics is a helpful.

3. Improving your reading and writing skills before attending university abroad is crucial because you will need to write various essays throughout your application process, such as your personal statement, even before starting university. You should read classic and academic English books, American news and articles. This will expand your knowledge of American academia and how scholars use certain topics or phrases to cultivate a convincing argument and ultimately prepare you to read graduate-level textbooks and write collegiate papers. Programs like Grammarly are helpful for checking proper English spelling and grammar.

4. One of the most beneficial ways of improving your English is taking online classes. There are a multitude of online services that provide private lessons with language experts at a low cost, such as: Verbling, italki and Verbalplanet. Taking courses online will increase your familiarity with conversational English and therefore increase your confidence when speaking to your new American friends on campus.

Don’t wait until you arrive in the US to advance your academic English. Starting early and learning from various resources is crucial for your success and will help you adapt to your new surroundings and achieve academic success.

Need more help with getting accepted, planning your studies, and the steps following graduation?