“Not all those who wander are lost” - J.R.R. Tolkien

By Eeva-Kaisa Ahlamo
Every spring in TAMK there is an orientation day for those who are going to head abroad for their exchange studies. During this day the students will hear about practicalities, what to expect and what not to fear. Often there is also a student who will tell about her own experiences and surprising situations she has faced when living in another country. This year this task was given to me.

Eeva-Kaisa Ahlamo
Photo by Tuula Härkönen

I’ve been living in New Zealand and Germany, total of about 4 years. I’ve met a lot of people from different cultures and truly gotten myself into situations where I’ve wondered if this is for real. (A very good example was when I was conducting my study exchange in Germany. Our flatmate became psychotic and we had to get her to a mental hospital. Now it sounds amusing, but it wasn’t funny when she entered our rooms at night just to stare at us while we slept.)

Smart people learn from their experiences, really smart also from the experiences of others. Here are five tips I presented during my show. I’ve learned they are quite useful when travelling abroad.

1. Challenge yourself. Do something you would never do at home. That’s the reason you go abroad in the first place. Life is there for you to live it, fill it with experiences that make it worth living.

2. Stay free from prejudice. Be ready to try things you are not used to. Find out how the things are done, some of the ways might be more productive than at home. Face people as humans, not as a part of a race, religion, doctrine, etc. Give people a chance but don’t forget to use common sense.

3. Don’t do too many plans. If you are given a chance, grab it! It is very likely it will never come to you again. If you have too many plans you are less likely to recognise the chances you are facing. It also makes you more prone to disappointments when your plans don’t follow through as you intended. Like John Lennon said: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”

4. Be prepared. Anything can happen. Don’t be afraid to act if needed, you might be the only one who can do it. The girl we had to get to mental hospital in Germany didn’t know anybody in the country, didn’t even realise she needed care. Our school only said our problems were probably some cultural differences but we didn’t give up and finally managed to get help for her. The officials said we were amazing flatmates because we didn’t leave her alone and spent so much of our own time with the matter.

5. Be polite. It’s funny, but nowadays you will be best remembered if you act polite and considerate. It will give you a huge advantage and insures that your company will always be valued and looked for.

The time abroad can help to boost self-esteem, give life-long friendships and lead to completely new directions in life. Still, it is only worth it if we are ready to accept the lessons we will learn. Happy travels!

The author is a student of TAMK Degree Programme in Media
Read more stories by and about IMPs, the international media programme students