Studying abroad is an unforgettable experience. So much so that you’re probably not too worried about having a great time. Yet, studying abroad can also be a cruel mistress — there are myriad things that could easily put a cramp in your style. Follow these tips to have a great year away from home.
Studying Abroad Dos and Don’ts
Do try to meet as many people as possible; don’t forget to schedule a little time for rest and relaxation.
Do try foods native to your destination country; don’t spend your trip eating foods from home.
Do try to learn the language of your destination country; don’t spend your entire year abroad studying in your room.
Do use common sense to stay safe; don’t spend your entire trip worrying about every little thing.
Do ask for help when you need it; don’t avoid going outside of your comfort zone.
Meet as Many People as Possible
Half the reason to study abroad is to meet as many new people as possible. You don’t want to travel halfway around the world (or to the other side of the world) only to spend your time in your dorm, watching “Game of Thrones.”
Sign up for as many activities as you possibly can. Try to meet as many people as possible from other countries.
That being said, don’t burn yourself out, either. Don’t forget to schedule some downtime for recharging your batteries.
Don’t Be Shy About the Cuisine
Yes, you’ll probably miss your favorite Italian American dish that only one restaurant in your town knows how to cook ‘just so.’ You’re going to have bizarre cravings for snacks and cereals you never even knew you liked.
Don’t forget to try new things. Eat the national dish of your destination country. Try all the weird snacks at corner stores.
Learn the Language as Fast as Possible
You won’t need to be fluent in another language before signing up for a study-abroad program. But you will want to make an attempt to learn the language of your destination. Don’t have time to learn a language in a few days? Download a language app to help break the language barriers.
When it comes to staying safe in your destination, it’s all about research.
Find out what neighborhoods are safe and which should be avoided. Don’t carry tons of cash in your wallet. Wear your backpack on your chest in the metro. Research local scams so you can find out how to avoid them. Don’t wander around in uncrowded areas alone.
Don’t Forget You’re There to Work
One of the biggest mishaps of a study abroad year is forgetting you’re there to work. Failing to complete assignments and missing classes is almost too easy when you’re trying to make memories that last a lifetime.
Many American students also often find themselves on their own for the first time — in countries without a legal drinking age.
Take it slow. You have your entire life to have fun. But you only have one chance to study abroad. Make the most of your trip by staying focused and making your studies your first priority.
Document Your Trip
Whether your preferred method of documentation is Snapchat, a diary, a blog or Instagram Stories, don’t forget to document your trip.
While a year might seem like a long time, it’s actually not very long at all. It will go by much faster than you expect.
It’s tempting to want to pack your entire wardrobe for a year of travel. After all, you’ll need a year’s worth of clothes. Who knows when you might need your shiniest dress, covered in sequins. Or, your favorite sweatpants or your homecoming sweater.
Pack as little as possible. Don’t forget that you can always buy more when you get to your destination. You can also have items shipped to you.
Ask for Help
At some point during your trip, you’re going to need to ask for help from someone. Whether it’s your roommate for help on your homework or your guidance counselor for advice on handling culture shock, it will probably happen. It’s OK to need help. It’s a sign of strength — not weakness.
Learn to Adapt to Living With Others
Learning to live with others isn’t easy. It’s even harder abroad than it is at home. You’re going to end up living with people from other cultures and countries. Your roommate will probably have different customs than the ones you’re used to. What’s considered rude in the U.S. might be common practice in other countries — and vice versa.
The more flexible you are at adapting to change, the easier it will be to get to the fun part of living abroad.
Reconsider Your Long-Distance Relationship
We hate to be cliché, but your long-distance relationship might not last more than a few months — and it’s going to end up holding you back. You don’t want to regret passing on bonding with your new classmates because you have a phone date with your boyfriend or girlfriend back home.
You also don’t want to stay in a long-distance relationship because you realize you’ve missed your chance to make friendships with your classmates.
Instead, give your full attention to your studying-abroad experience.