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Top 10 Cures for Study Abroad Boredom [examiner.com]

June 25, 2008

By Jessica Warnock, examiner.com

Inevitably, once you arrive to your new country, once all the orientations, paper-work filling sessions and unpacking is complete, you will at some point become incredibly and mind-numbingly bored. While it is easy to assume the first few weeks will be a whirlwind of cultural infusion and fun, most likely, after the first week or two, you won’t have any idea what to do with yourself. This unexpected affect is completely normal in any new situation. You are not familiar with your new area and what it has to offer and probably haven’t made too many friends yet. You suddenly find yourself chalk full of free time with no idea how to spend it. For this, I offer tried and tested methods to kill the monotony so you don’t end up playing hundreds of games of FreeCell on your laptop.

    1. Volunteer: This is a boredom killer that not only passes the time, but makes you feel like using your time positively. It is also a great way to meet some locals and get to know a new area that may not be covered in your Lonely Planet. As to be expected, the most common volunteering option is to teach or tutor English. However, I encourage you to look past this option for something a little more intriguing. For instance, one of the kids in our current group will be spending three weeks after the semester ends volunteering in two Costa Rican national parks. Rainforest vs. English grammar? No contest.
    2. Read…in your host language: Trust me, if you are looking to kill time, reading in another language you are just starting to learn will make the hours fly by, especially when it takes a half-hour to read one page. Also, reading is the best way to pick up new vocabulary. Try reading the local version of one of your favorite magazines (my favorite: Spanish Cosmopolitan). If you are feeling courageous, pick a book written by someone in your host country. Once you finish your first whole book in another language, you will feel incredible!
    3. Go to a local café or bar you have never been to: Exploring the bar/café scene in your area is essential to the beginnings of any study abroad semester. Take your new gringo buddies and find the best cup of coffee in town. Once you have found a great spot, you will always have a place to come back to.   Regarding the club scene, try and sit at the bar and make friends with the bartender to practice your new language (also a great way to meet potential study abroad boyfriends and girlfriends, hint hint).
    4. Have a Multicultural Cooking Night: Whether you are living in a host family or in an apartment with roommates, suggest a night in which each person brings/cooks something specific to her region. For instance, if you are from Kansas, make some delicious BBQ for your new friends. This is a great way to try some homemade foreign food and is a great conversation starter.
    5. Join a Gym or Sports Team: If you are studying in a large university town, there are probably some sports teams you can join. Although of course you won’t be an official player, practicing with the team will help your language skills and help you to meet friends, all while exercising. Exercising during study abroad is always a good idea because a lot students gain weight due to the diet change and stress. If you cannot join a sports team or aren’t particularly good at any sport, try joining a gym, which is usually a lot cheaper abroad than it is in the States.
    6. Find the “Mercado Central:” Most cities, especially smaller ones, will have some type of local market that sells everything from local produce to stickers. These markets are normally pretty incredible sights to see (and smell). It is also a great place to people watch.
    7. Get a Movie Rental Card: If you brought a laptop on your trip, whichI highly recommend, watching movies is a great way to pass the time and hang out with friends.  If you are in a country with a prosperous film industry (such as Argentina, Mexico or France) try and only rent movies in your host language. These are movies you probably wouldn’t ever have the chance to find at Blockbuster.
    8. Journal Writing and Picture Taking: Take a little time each day just to write down your thoughts about your day and what you did. Specific details are easily forgotten and a journal is a great way to make sure your precious moments never escape you. If you aren’t particularly found of writing, just make a quick note of what you did on a calendar and you will still have a way to remember everything. Or, you can make a photo journal. Take out your fancy new camera that you bought for your trip and document everyday life in your host city.
    9. Museums, Theatre, Monuments….: Of course, wandering the local art museum or heading downtown to see a show are great ways to discover what your city may be famous for. Don’t be afraid to hit up the tourist circuit!
    10. TRAVEL! TRAVEL! TRAVEL!: My personal favorite. Travel, see and discover as much and you can.
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