Settling into a new city or country

Posted 30 Oct 2019
By Dominique Thompson

Settling into a new city or country can be like wearing a new pair of boots - it takes a while to get comfortable and feel like they’re part of you. 

But taking the time to get to know your new university surroundings, explore and get ‘out and about’ can really pay off. You will have a lot of new things to be dealing with when you first arrive at uni, so prioritise the important stuff, like meeting people, working out your academic timetable and commitments, and joining a few societies or sports clubs that appeal to you. Get settled in your flat or room, learn the local routes to key places such as libraries and lecture halls, and discover a new favourite café, but after all that, it may feel like the right time for you to go further afield. In a new city you might start just by walking as much as you can, or cycling (many cities have free bikes for anyone to use), familiarising yourself with local areas, then with cafes (try the local delicacies), bars and shops (useful too for finding hairdressers/ barbers and nail bars!). Eventually you might go into slightly more distant city neighbourhoods, seeking out those with independent or organic shops and cafes, locally recommended pubs (known for their cider, or whisky or food) or sports grounds if you fancy watching football, rugby, basketball, or even ice hockey live! You can also do a traditional sightseeing bus or walking tour of course, for example in Bristol the graffiti/ Banksy tour is very popular! Wherever you wander, remember to check first that safety is not likely to be an issue in that neighbourhood of course. 

Getting off your usual daily routes is key, and not always using the underground, buses or trams to get around, so that you get the ‘feel’ of the city and start to become a ‘local citizen’, not just another student. By supporting local businesses, and shopping in independent shops you will also be contributing to the local economy, which is a fantastic way to support your new community. If you’re new to the country, then make time at weekends to travel to nearby cities or places of interest- ask your tutors for recommendations so that you hear from ‘locals’ what is really worth the effort. 

You might like to get a job of course, which will emphasise your contribution to the city, whilst helping to pay rent and bills. Another benefit of a job will be getting to know local people, not just other students and university staff, and some students also do this by volunteering locally, in charity shops, or by working to raise funds for causes that matter to them. 


And don’t forget of course that whilst these are great ways to feel settled and make the new city your home, they are also brilliant for your CV! So as you arrive in your new residence, and think about how to get to know your chosen city better, remember to take it slowly and gradually explore outside of your ‘comfort zone’ and until you really feel able to call your new city ‘home’. For more advice or support check out Dominique’s Student Wellbeing Series of books, or look at https://www.studentminds.org.uk

Posted 30 Oct 2019
By Dominique Thompson