So, you’ve done the thing.  You’ve made it to your study abroad destination.  However, your new home does not gleam as much as you wanted it to.  I was overwhelmed with these feelings when I first arrived in Madrid.  The first few days, I kept waiting for the ‘aha’ moment to hit me that I was in Europe, in an amazing new city, living out my dream.  However, I was plagued with feelings of self-doubt, uncertainty, and loneliness.  This was confusing; why was I struggling so much in a city full of great places and great people?  Now, on my third week in Madrid, here are some tips and tricks I used to combat the overwhelming emotions you might experience during initial stages of culture shock.

First, be patient.  Be patient with yourself, your peers, and your city.  I got so lost on the metro my first day, and I was extremely frustrated with my lack of Spanish and clarity with the transportation system.  However, try, try again.  Practice truly does make perfect, and things do get easier.  Sometimes you do need to throw in the towel and take an Uber.  But be resilient, trust yourself, and get back at it the next day.  Patience for me meant acceptance- that I will be alone sometimes, I can achieve things independently, and I can have fun both by myself and with others.

Second, making friends is exhausting, but put yourself out there.  My program has heavy attendance from specific universities in U.S.  People who come in groups will stay in groups, so look for the welcoming solos who are just as eager as you to form new relationships.  As a solo, I experienced a form of loneliness that I never had before in my life.  However, I met some of my best friends my first week in Madrid, even on the first day.  Sign up for the school trips and activities, and no, it’s not weird.  These are great ways to get acquainted with your peers who are just as exhausted and nervous as you.  I met wonderful friends on the walking tour of our neighborhood, and soon enough we were off planning a trip to Portugal!

Third, find enjoyment in little normalcies.  Soon enough, you’ll have bigger fish to fry.  Don’t expect to be making your best memories the first week.  These amazing stories will come, however the beginning is all about learning.  To make the first week go by a little easier, do the little things you like to do at home.  For me, this was getting exercise by exploring the city, shopping in niche boutiques, finding a delicious cup of coffee, and trying new restaurants, just like how I do at home with my friends and family.

I hope that this advice will act as a reminder that you are not alone in this experience, and everyone experiences some form of culture shock.  Be patient, put yourself out there, find your little happies, and you will be well on your way to one of the greatest journeys of your life.  Good luck!