5 Books To Prepare Your Mind For Studying Abroad
These books are perfect to help you get ready to navigate your journey while studying abroad.
These days there are a lot of ways you can prepare for visiting a new country. From disappearing into a subreddit of a subreddit about where to get the best pizza, to 360 videos of the square you’ll be living on – it’s so easy to create a picture in our heads of what a place will look or feel like. This fantastical idea often closes you off from the experiences you could be having. And it’s through experiencing things for yourself that a place reveals itself.
These books will help you keep your eyes and heart open and help you foster connection with your new home, to feel about exploring. Let them be your guide to opening yourself up to all the sights and sounds your new home has to offer, so that you can let it shape you, but never overwhelm you.
The Art of Travel – Alain de Botton
Just as you can expect from this modern-day philosopher, his modern classic on travelling takes a compassionate look at why we have the need for exploration. In Botton’s almost sing-song, relatable and often quite funny narrative, he will help you understand why we have such high expectations of our travels – and how to deal with that little pang of disappointment. A must-read if you’re looking to expand your mind and horizons.
On the Road – Jack Kerouac
Generations of adventurers have grown up on this, the ultimate road-trip book. First published in 1957, it’s hailed as one of the finest and most beautiful examples of writing from the so-called Beat Generation – a youth movement breaking away from traditional societal norms in favour of self-expression and modern jazz. Kerouac’s intimate style of writing will take you on a tumultuous, jazzy journey across America, as the narrator finds himself amidst friendships, adventure and love. It’s a great ride, filled with all the encouragement you may need to find your own way.
The Beach – Alex Garland
Garland’s cult classic takes a deep look at our obsession with attaining our imagined utopia. It was later made into a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, but carrying around a battered paperback version of this will definitely score you points. Throughout this pacey novel, characters attempt to reach paradise, and once there, lie back and forget all about the real world. It is tempting to think of your new home as just such a paradise, but this story offers an adventurous reminder that every society, no matter how idealised, has its struggles. There are valuable lessons to be learned through the momentary hardship – something to hold onto as you journey into your new life at university.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values – Robert M Pirsig
This fictionalised biography is a lifelong companion – offering advice and insight for many of life’s trickiest questions. Pirsig offers many philosophical questions for a young mind to mull over on long walks through a new city. Throughout the book, the narrator is determined to keep his past separate from his present. This tension – and its eventual resolve – shows that accepting and loving yourself is indeed possible. It may seem as if who you were simply doesn’t fit with your new world, but you’ll soon find a comfortable groove.
A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson
Bryson is known for his travel writing, but for this hefty book he breaks away to take us on a journey through time. He treks all the way from the Big Bang to where we are now – telling often hilarious, sometimes sad, and highly interesting stories of discovery and learning-as-we-go. It remains a book about science, however, so it will leave you better informed about how the world around you came to be. It beautifully highlights how interconnected and precious all life is. And that, at the end of it all, each organism is simply trying to make its way through the time it has as best it can. Remember this as you observe your new environment while studying abroad, be kind to yourself and those you meet, and it’ll make for a more livelier journey.
Hopefully these books will help you tune into your new city and discover new dimensions of yourself while living abroad. Around every corner there are new people, experiences and lessons waiting to be discovered. Soak up as much as you can from this life-changing opportunity of studying abroad and you’ll graduate with more than just a degree.
About the Author: Corli de Kock studied journalism and art history in a small little town in South Africa, away from her safe home nest. She's tried her hand at many things, journeying via rock 'n roll to social strategy and eventually copywriting. She's still figuring out what the next thing will be, gathering skills, lessons and friends along the way.