Our ambassador from Iraq, Zumredah Ali Al-AliBasha explains best practice for setting up your new life in Ireland.

Getting out of your comfort zone

Travelling, studying abroad and starting a new life was not what I expected after graduating from high school. In 2016, I graduated without any thoughts of studying abroad and leaving my comfort zone. When I arrived in Ireland, all I felt was excitement. Surprisingly, I did not feel homesick or afraid — probably because I didn’t know what I was about to experience over the coming days.

It soon became apparent that moving country was not as easy as I thought it would be. Each day, I felt more homesick and tired of being away from my family and friends. I refused to go out with the friends I had met in Ireland and I did not want to do any new activities. All I wanted at that point was to return to my comfort zone, which is probably what everyone wants most of the time. Everything was new to me in Ireland, which eventually caused an overwhelming feeling that I did not like at all. However, after a whole year of homesickness, I decided to start loving Ireland in a different way.

a health plate of salad and a big breakfast with a a small vase of flowers

A change in perspective

One major thought that changed my perspective on studying abroad was looking at everything from another window. I started off by organising my time and preventing unproductive days. My healthy lifestyle today is what keeps me away from homesickness and protects me from wanting to run back to my comfort zone. All the steps I follow are super simple and convenient, but they made a huge difference in the way my days begins.

  • Buy a diary, write everything you want to do down and keep it with you at all times.
  • Wake up earlier than usual and take five minutes to meditate using “HeadSpace”, which is a free meditation application.
  • Take 20 minutes for either yoga or a quick walk outside to start fresh.
  • I like doing something new every day; however, during busy study weeks I prefer keeping this part for Sundays only.
  • Spoil yourself with a breakfast like I do! But follow a healthy diet, or balance it out. Maintaining a healthy diet is extremely under-rated, but from my own experience, I know that maintaining a clean diet makes me feel better about myself and my surroundings.
  • Pick one activity/hobby you enjoy and make the most out of it during the week. My new hobby came after I discovered that I am good at painting! When I am feeling down, stressed or anxious about anything, I start painting because I find it therapeutic and it works like magic!
  • Talk to someone and tell them about your day, every day. It might not seem very useful when you think about it; however, a lot of psychological research shows that speaking to someone helps in relieving stress and anxiety.
  • Look at everything from a positive perspective, no matter how bad it seems. Optimism can never be exaggerated, it only makes everything better and easier to handle.

Student standing beside her painting of a moonscape and the same student sitting on a tree trunk, doing yoga

Studying abroad and changing your lifestyle is definitely going to be difficult. However, you can always decide how you want to spend your day. Studying abroad also means changing, exploring and developing yourself. If you want to adjust to the new culture and environment, then you need to start working on yourself as well as acceptance. Your surroundings will not change, but the way you think is definitely going to. Ireland has been amazing for me, and I am looking forward to exploring more!