The first weekend has so much opportunity it is hard to imagine doing anything other than making memories. The problem is you’re jet-lagged and unfamiliar with your terrain.
I remember well the hazy Friday morning I woke up, looked at the clock, and croaked to my roommate “the train leaves in 3 minutes.” We didn’t make that train (apparently we could have just hopped the next one). We were exhausted, overwhelmed, and under-informed.
The first weekend is the perfect time to nest. Find some free advertisements around town and hang them as posters in your room. Spend a little money on bedding, those dorm beds are rocks, and get a few cleaning supplies (especially laundry & dish detergent). While doing these hum-drum chores, poke around your neighborhood and your school’s neighborhood to find the best commute, a good lunch place, a place with decent coffee – all the things you will need. It’s also not a bad idea to find things like Starbucks, Friday’s, McDonalds, and the local American ex-pat bar. Don’t sniff at it just yet! A few weeks in you’ll hit you’re limit of new experiences and a little trip to America will be just what you need.
Starting off with a weekend of sleeping and exploring will set you up for future weekends where you get off a plane at 7am Monday and you still make your 10am lecture. A slow weekend also gives you time to plan the weekend after. I found that for the first 2 years of college all my friends and I talked about were the weekend trips we were going to take during SA, then we began to apply, got accepted, and planning those trips seemed like nothing but stress. Of course once we had a few of our pressing questions answered (Who’s my roommate? Where’s my flat? What courses did I get? Will I get homesick? – For me it was 1. a great friend, 2. South Kensington aka royal digs 3. Great courses, a ton of work 4. not really ;)…
Unpacking and getting ready for school is great and you can also meet other SA students who crop up in your classes. My program involved a dozen schools and we were connected to a local University. Two of my favorite people came from a school hundreds of miles away.