Adapting to New Surroundings: Psychologist Tips and Stories of Three Students

Modern young people go for a job or to various exchange programs all over the world. Some of them are truly happy to have those opportunities, and some find adaptation period really difficult. We’ve discussed this issue with the professor of psychology, Vladimir Mihic, who gave us few tips about how to adapt easier when a person getting out of a comfort zone, out of home.

It’s corny, but very important, first of all you should stay positive.

Through meeting a new culture, people can learn how to be flexible. Change of environment can help us in making some life changing decisions, said professor Mihic.

Also even people are preparing to go abroad for some time, they must be ready for a shock.

Suddenly, your life is changed, especially if you are going alone to unknown country, town.

But you should prepare yourself anyway.

It is necessary to prepare before leaving, at least a little bit – you can find out something about the country you are going in, you can practice the language, you can check if you know someone there who can help you at the beginning. It is much easier if you are certain in your decision, and you have a big reason why are you leaving your home – that can help you a lot.

Maybe you will need to change some of your habits.

Different environment requires different type of actions and reactions. But that can be interesting experience and don’t have to be a bad thing.

The key is not to expect too much.

You should be ready to ups and downs. If you learn not to expect unrealistic things, you will not have problems.

Don’t be in hurry, you will need a lot of time to get use to your new way of life anyway.

You don’t have to push yourself to accept totally a new culture, but you have to respect it if you want your adapting go smoother.

Don’t push anything, things will come with time.

It is important to have time management, but if you are pushing it too hard you can have a problem.

Follow your individual way of adjustment.

Each of us is specific and each of us has a individual way of adjustment. If you know something that helped you earlier to adapt in some situations, you should try to do it again.

It will be easier if you have someone next to you.

If you have an opportunity to spend time with someone while you are adapting, that is great and you should take that chance.

Surround you by new people.

Through meeting with those people you will get to know the country, the customs, the culture – that can help you a lot to get used.

Don’t think too much about home.

In the era of internet, with Skype and other applications (and also cheap flights) you can easy be in touch with your family and friends. Because of that, homesick and loneliness is not as big problem as it was earlier. But don’t think too much about returning home because that will not help your integration in your new life.

Don’t compare your home with your new country/town.

In new environment you can explore which benefits you will have but not only benefits – also you must find out which problems can you have. Be realistic. Constant comparison two countries can be contra productive and you can feel that you are in new country just permanently, so, in some way you can think that adaption is not necessary. That is completely wrong.

Finally be yourself.

Accept yourself and be yourself with all possible ups and downs, problems. Than you wouldn’t be afraid of a new things. And this is the most important part being out of a comfort zone.



Natasa Marinkov

23 years old, study in Milan

“By changing my attitude, thoughts and emotions, I have managed to change my life. For better, of course. I’m not saying there weren’t minor troubles once in a while, but generally speaking, the rest of my staying in Milan was an extraordinary, unique, beautiful journey.”

From the first days of her university course, while studying French and Italian Language, Natasa wanted to spend one year abroad. She wanted to live in another country not only for her future career’s sake – she was sure that this experience would benefit her own personal development as well. A chance occurred two years ago when she applied for Erasmus Mundus Student Exchange, and in September 2013 she arrived in Milan, Italy.

All the thrill and excitement prevented me to think of the inevitable uncomfortable side affects that come along with every moving. The period of depression might last from several days to several months, depending on the nature of the change and the personality of each student. Unfortunately, mine was the second case , said Nataša. She didn’t like “the big, grey, rainy, polluted Milan and the cold, unfriendly Italians” weren’t the idea she had of an Italian city and its habitants. At the end of November she was ready to shorten her staying and return home believing she was wrong for thinking that she was made to live abroad.

But, a friend of her, quite older that she, made her think about her new decision.
She made me see all that was wrong was my attitude of a spoiled child that didn’t get what she expected to get. She made me understand that in every situation life puts us in, we should, or better, we must try to make the best of it, to see and to concentrate on the good side of it , admits Natasa. She realized – the great expectations can only make some new experience look bad.

So, I stayed, and that was the best decision I have ever made in my life. 


Ana Perković
23 years old, moved to France

“I’ve learned to look on the bright side, and I’ve definitely made the best decision of my life by going there. I’m just sorry I didn’t do it before. Was I afraid? I don’t think so. I was always repeating to myself: No matter how bad things get here, nothing better is waiting for you back home.”

Ana began her ‘’French adventure’’ in June of 2012. Her departure wasn’t well planned and it was on a low budget. In fact, she went to visit someone she knew, someone who lived in the beautiful French Riviera, precisely in Nice.
Once I was there, I knew that I needed to stay there and maybe start a new chapter of my life. The adjustment wasn’t that difficult for me and I didn’t feel very homesick. I have moved at least 10 times in my life and I am used to big changes; I actually love them, said Ana. She knew that people were slightly colder, but she loved the fact that no one’s got time for her business, unlike in Serbia. People are focused on themselves and their closest ones, not on their neighbors.

Her biggest struggle was the language barrier. Her French wasn’t good enough even if she had learned it for four years at the time. Basic things were 5 times more expensive than in Serbia and renting a flat was out of her budget. So, since she has always loved little kids, she decided to be an au pair.
Like that I got free accommodation, free food and a reasonable amount of money for myself. I changed 3 families in 2 years, but my second one was by far the best. It was difficult to get used to their lifestyle, considering they were devoted Jews, but I found my way and they accepted me as a part of their family, admits Ana. She was their favorite person during the Shabbat, when they wouldn’t touch the electricity, money, when they wouldn’t reply on their phones, etc. They had a non-Jew who could do all that without having any guilty conscience.

She made a lot of friends there, adapted to their lifestyle; fell in love with the language, culture and everything that’s connected with France. Ana thinks, that she has grown from an insecure girl, to an ambitious woman who’s aware of her abilities but who’s ready to work on her flaws.

Nemanja Lazendic
22 years old, moved to Austria

“All this makes me so excited because I don’t know how it will end up. All of us has some story and you never know with who you will drink a coffee, who you will meet and it will reflect on your life. I am so grateful because I make decision which change completely whole perception of my life.”

Nemanja has a little bit different story, he decided to go in Vienna after high school by his own (without any scholarship) and make international career with his effort. He had a big support from his parents but in Vienna he didn’t know anyone and he also didn’t know the language.

Before I went to college I was learning German and meanwhile I was searching for the job. It was really difficult. I didn’t have contacts but when I met one guy who gave me the first job i was the happiest man in the world, admits Nemanja.

After that, while he was learning language he was doing every kind of jobs – he was working at the concerts, restaurants; he was selling contracts for companies etc. Nemanja started to have his own money and at that moment he could enroll in college. It was hard to be a regular student because the employees rarely asked him about his free time so he had to work a lot and anytime.

This first year of living abroad has transferred me from a kid who had never worked in his life to a young man who learned many things about life and how to deal with problems.


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