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How to feel at home abroad: 10 tips

To get the most out of studying, interning, or working abroad, you not only have to learn the language and do as the locals do – you also want to live in a place that feels like a home away from home. Your room should scream, “Look, everyone! The person who lives here is comfortable, and here’s the interior design to prove it.” And don’t worry, even if you’re not into decorating, you can still create a homey atmosphere with a few easy (and inexpensive) tricks.

1. Make space

The first rule of turning your temporary residence into an actual home? Make it a place where you actually want to spend time in – if you always have to leave the house to study or relax, your room or apartment will never feel like you live there. Students might want to rearrange the furniture to set up an area where they can do homework while bookworms should get some pillows to set up a cozy reading nook. If you like doing yoga or push-ups — you get the idea.

2. Decorate

A house is not a home because the curtains match the bed sheets that go with the candles and complement the potpourri. It’s all about things that have a sentimental value and show off your personality or passion: Less is usually more and one cool decorative item or picture can do the trick while acting as the perfect conversation starter when you invite people over (see tip number nine). Plus, you can always take it with you as the ultimate souvenir. If you need inspiration, check out Pinterest or visit fellow students, interns, or colleagues.

3. Hang up photos

Sometimes, you don’t stay in a place long enough to channel your inner interior designer, or you’re simply not allowed to decorate to your heart’s content – if you stay at an Airbnb or a hotel, for example. But even then, putting up some photos of your friends and family can add a personal touch in no time.

4. Cultivate your green thumb

A surefire indication that a room is a home? A plant. You can even name your new green friend and make it your new study buddy. If you’re worried about the watering duties, just get some fresh flowers or a plastic plant that you can dust every now and then.

5. Put away the suitcases

One characteristic of traveling is the presence of luggage. Living out of a suitcase will remind you, a couple of times a day, that you’re on the road. Therefore, an easy way to feel more at home is to unpack your clothes and put the suitcases away.

6. Keep it tidy

Depending on your level of innate tidiness, this one might not be so much fun: Keep your home away from home clean and tidy. Coming back to a more or less spotless apartment after a day out – complete with a bed that’s made – is part of why staying at a hotel is so much fun.

7. Hear the music

An excellent way to make any place feel homier is music: No matter if it’s headphones or speakers, listening to our favorite playlist (at a roommate- and neighborhood-friendly volume) makes everything better, no matter where in the world you are.

8. Smell the scents

Why not make personalizing your headquarters a mission for all senses and buy some scented candles or air freshener? Of course you always have to check with your roommates, but a familiar and favorite smell can do wonders when it comes to feeling at home.

9. Show it all off

A big part of creating a social life away from home is to meet up with new friends – by inviting them over, for example. After all, you’ve spent all of this time sprucing up your residence, it’s time to show it off. And speaking of presenting it to the world: Don’t forget to take some pictures, shoot a video or have your friends and family take a closer look during a video chat. (Plus, events like these are always a good occasion to clean your room and make sure everything looks like in a real estate ad.)

10. Go out and explore

Now, it’s time to take the homification to the next level – the outside world. Explore your neighborhood and find a café, gym, cinema, restaurant or park that can be your (temporary) happy place. That way, you’ll always have some alternatives when you need a change of scenery or feel homesick.

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