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Much needed help

I need help. I am teaching abroad for 5 months, and, once I arrived, I found out that the undertaking was far less than I assumed. I only teach 3 days a week, and I don't have the money to travel on all my off days. In month I've been here, I've gotten lazy, and have been sitting around eating and basically doing nothing. Each day I say I'm going to get up and go run, catch up on my reading and all the other things I never found time to do when I had 28 million things on my agenda in the States.

I know I should get out and exercise, but it's so cold outside, and I can't afford a gym membership since I'm making no money. I have to stay in the program 'til May 1, but I am so lonely, and I know if I don't change, I will have gained an enormous amount of weight by the time I go home. I don't want to face my friends and family then.

Please, I'm asking for someone to offer any suggestions that will send me in a positive direction.

Mon. Jan 30, 9:33am

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It is rough to be in a foreign place without friends in a place that didn't meet your expectations. I spent a year in the middle east and I remember the first month being incredibly lonely. I didn't speak the language but I understood one word "cake" and I found myself eating cake every evening. Soon I started to write in my journal and write all the crazy thoughts down though and each day became easier as I indoctrinated myself into the new culture and let go of my expectations of what I thought would happen on this experience abroad.

Have you befriended any of the locals? They usually love to host people and learn about other cultures. All you need to meet is one. It's amazing how one person can open up many doors. Is there a local cafe? I find many people sit there for hours and socialize, and if you're reading a book in english, many will approach you for conversation and extend invitations. How about the students parents and families? Do you ever get a chance to meet them?

Monday, January 30, 2006, 9:46 AM

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Don;t lose hope!!! Start today! Take it one day at a time, you will have to be your own 'keeper' - you are going to be the only one responsible for going home overweight OR NOT! You already have your first bit of motivation ready - you know what to do, NOW JUST DO IT.

The only way I feel positive at the end of the day, is when i have accomplished what I set out to do the morning. i make a small list of at least 5 things to do. Throughout the day, I check in to the list and cross them of as soon as I have done them. When I have completed my list - I FEEL GOOD!!!! When I haven't done them, I carry them over for the next day and try harder!

Keeping a diary of what I eat and weighing myself daily also keeps myself on track.

I'll check back later - good luck so far!

Monday, January 30, 2006, 10:04 AM

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When I was abroad (I was studying, not teaching, but maybe you could find a study abroad program to get info from), my program had a community board type thing where you could post things like requests for conversation exchanges. English is a pretty valuable thing - a lot of the people I met were very enthusiastic about practicing their English with me. So I set up a couple of "dates" each week where I'd get together with a local for an hour or two, and half the time we'd speak in English, and the other half we'd speak in Spanish. It was a great way to practice - in that controlled setting, neither of us felt awkward about correcting the other's mistakes, and the best way to improve is to speak with native speakers.

Are you in a big city? If you are - try craigslist. Post for someone to show you the sites. If you're a woman, be sure to take all the necessary safety precautions (like meeting in very public places, trying to find women to go with, etc).

Could you find somewhere to volunteer? It's a great way to meet people, and it's always hard to feel bad for yourself when you see how much whoever you're helping is struggling. Craigslist is again a decent resource for this...or try a local church. Or ask around your school.

The other teachers where you are might be a great resource. Probably one or more of them would enjoy getting coffee with you sometime after work.

I don't know your whole situation, but you probably chose to go where ever you are for some set of reasons - write them out to remind yourself, then make another list of all the things you want to do while you're there. Traveling isn't an option, but walking is a great way to see the sites, and many cultural things are free. There is probably some local magazine that lists all the events that are going on in a given week. Check it out and go do a couple each week.

Tell yourself that you're going to try a new coffee shop each week to find your favorite.

Finally, there might be some sort of America community (are you from the US? - or where ever you're from) where you are. They might be able to point you in the direction of other people who are in a similar situation, or maybe they have some big sister program where people who have been there longer take newbies around and show them all the good spots.

Hang in there! Being abroad can be an amazing experience - get out there and enjoy it!

Monday, January 30, 2006, 10:10 AM

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Pick up a book, or order from Amazon, of something like "how to explore xxx city on $5 a day." They have them for tons of European cities, as well as, like, NYC. It'll tell you about hole-in-the-wall museums and churches you can explore for free, or when festivals are going on, etc. Then you'll be out, walking, and doing stuff, which will take up your time, and you won't be sitting around, eating.

Also, since you're on a limited budget, try and buy all of your food from a grocery store, and not eat out. It'll save you a ton of money and calories. Budget out how much money you have for food each week; if you spend less (by not going out), put it aside. If you do well with that, you may have enough to go travel for a weekend or a few days, or go to the theater, or take a tour, or some other touristy thing that you wouldn't be able to afford otherwise. And you'll be eating so much healthier!

Monday, January 30, 2006, 10:16 AM

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You mentioned running. Could you look for a running club? Or at least a buddy? If you try to associate yourself with people who have a healthy lifestyle it would be a bonus.

Monday, January 30, 2006, 10:18 AM

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You don't say where you're teaching but are you in a big city? I live just outside Toronto and I know this sounds crazy but when I feel like I need to "get away" and be somewhere new, if I can't afford a trip I just explore the city. I ALWAYS find something new and interesting (and usually spend the entire day hoofing it around town so I burn some major calories). Here's what I tend to do:

-Look for little art galleries (especially ones holding free openings. It depends on the artist and gallery but sometimes they even have talks given by the artist)
-Decide on a meal to cook and then go to a farmer's market (or similar market type thing, NOT a grocery store) and try your hand at negotiating.
-Check out productions put on my community art groups (musical or dramatic).
-If there is anything specific to the region you're in (for example a martial art, or particular form of flower arranging) see if you can find someplace offering to offer you a single lesson just to try it.

It's totally normal to go through culture shock and be lonely but you have to remember although you may not become the world's most popular person in your new area, you won't make ANY friends without going out and trying. And as someone who was fairly recently an extremely poor uni student, $ is not an excuse for shutting yourself in your place.

I'm sure you will be fine once you get over the "hump" of getting used to your new surroundings.

Monday, January 30, 2006, 10:43 AM

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All of these above posts are great ideas. Remember that your in a city or country place you've never been to before and who knows if you would have ever had the chance to be there. Why not just go explore the area your in? Make yourself get out no matter what the weather is and go check out the city or explore the country side. You don't need a lot of money, just enough for a cup of coffee. Bring a book and enjoy a cup of coffee. Museums are certain days are free almost everywhere and if not there are tons of things to see and do that are free if your in a city. If your somewhere rural find a cafe and bring a book and notebook. You'll be able to figure something out. Make the best of it and try to engage people into conversations. The important thing is to get out of the house and stop mopping around.

Monday, January 30, 2006, 12:20 PM

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Thank yous

Hi, I'm the original poster. I just want to express how thankful I am at all your wonderful suggestions. I have taken many of these steps already, but I get so easily discouraged. For instance, I called about 478 people trying to get a hold of this hockey club in my area. No one ever got back to me despite my annoying persistance, so I just gave up!

After reading the advice, I forced myself to get in an hour long run, and I felt a world better. I had a healthy dinner, and I scheduled a morning spin class for tomorrow. I forgot to mention that I am based in Utrecht, Holland, and, while the language barrier isn't large (almost everyone can communicate fluently in English), I still feel like a cultural outsider (probably most of which I make up myself).

I also plan to hang out at this trendy-looking cafe around the corner from my house w. a book. Tomorrow night there is a get together for university students at a popular club that I am going to attend. While I'm not a student, these people are close to my age, and I'm determined to forge some kind of relationship. I also have a really busy schedule at school on Wed and Thurs--once in which I'll ask my fellow teachers about any suggestions they may have about meeting people and volunteering--I really like the idea of volunteering.

Again, thanks to all. While I've thought of some of these things, it makes a world of difference to read how simple they seem coming from another perspective. As most of you understand, I'm so used to the American way of life where you barely have a second to think. Since I just finished at Penn State, I was used to having class, internships, waitressing, tutoring, and 7289 other things I was involved in. I could hardly find time to share a meal with my boyfriend, much less try new things. I need to simply embrace this change and make the best of it. I turned today around, and tomorrow is a new day that can be even better.


Monday, January 30, 2006, 4:28 PM

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If you like music, I can recommend Gerard van Maasakkers & Die Vaste Mannen. !!! Try to go and see a show or listen to one of his CD in a music store. They are excellent - if you want to experience the folk music of the Netherlands.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006, 4:47 AM

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And as far as I know, the country is very bicycle friendly, why not try that? I'm sure you';; be able to find a cheap bike somewhere, maybe even borrow one from your new friends!

Tuesday, January 31, 2006, 4:51 AM

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Everyone has some great ideas, but if the weather is too cold to get out or you just don't feel like getting out, you could get a couple of workout DVDs and stay at home and work out. Once you start working out, you will get that positive attitude back again.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006, 9:56 AM

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I adore the last comment! I just downloaded a yoga video, and intend to do it the next time I get deterred by the cold weather (probably won't be long).

Great suggestion.


Tuesday, January 31, 2006, 10:58 AM

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Jessica, I graduated from Washington University in St. Louis a couple years ago. I know they have a fairly large study-abroad program to Utrecht University, or something like that... Definitely in Utrecht. I'm sure they'd be happy to meet other Americans traveling abroad. Maybe you could post something at some of the universities, looking for students studying abroad. Just a thought!

Tuesday, January 31, 2006, 11:10 AM

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Hi Jessica!
I'm so sorry I was so MIA in our group- I lost steam to post when work and school took every moment of my awake time. I finally had a few minutes this morning to post and you were gone :( I would like for us to keep in touch- I miss talking to you!


Monday, July 22, 2013, 8:00 AM

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