Embarking on a study abroad program is an unforgettable experience. You see new people, places and things you only imagined in dreams, and you return home with extraordinary memories. It’s no wonder why so many university students jump at the opportunity when it arises. If you’ve already signed up for a study abroad program, you may be wondering what the next steps are.
How do you prepare yourself for the journey, and what should you do while overseas? These seven tips will give you the guidance you need to succeed on your trip and make the most out of every encounter.
1. Immerse Yourself in the Culture
Eat new foods, wear the country’s signature garments — respectfully! — and do an activity you can’t experience in your hometown. Having an adventure means being willing to step outside the box and do new things. Though you may be afraid at first, you’ll feel accomplished after completing a new task.
The local people will appreciate your respect for their culture, and you can feel good knowing you’ve expanded your mind. Keep a clear perspective about the things you encounter, and try not to compare their culture to yours. You gain respect for others by stepping into their shoes and observing how they live.
2. Research Before You Leave
Research your destination before you leave. You’ll be fully ready and less stressed when you know what’s ahead of you. Things to read up on include the local eats, popular activities, social etiquette and the climate.
For instance, it’s considered polite to arrive on time in Germany, but in Latin American cultures, it’s rude to do so. In Russia, answering your phone during dinner is frowned upon, but taking a call in Thailand in the middle of a conversation is considered a social norm.
Check the local delicacies for any food allergies you have so you know what’s safe to eat. Learn a few phrases in the local language to make getting around easier. Many locals will appreciate your effort in learning their language, even if you only know basic sentences.
Research prepares you, but it also gives you added respect for your destination. You’ll get to learn its history and its people before hitting the ground.
3. Use Your Financial Aid
Studying abroad can be costly, which is why most in-university programs cover the expenses. If you’re eyeing one outside your university, however, investigate using your financial aid to cover the cost. Most institutions will approve the usage of financial assistance, whether the program is a degree requirement or not.
Most students receive financial aid of some sort, and it can prove to be a lifesaver in multiple situations. If you’ve got it, use it!
4. Leave Your Comfort Zone
No one can grow by staying inside their comfort zone. Humans are like plants — we need room to spread our leaves, roots and stems. Don’t box yourself in with limitations and fears while you’re away. Sometimes it’s necessary to take risks to experience the joys of life and cultivate memories.
Incorporate some spontaneity into your life and head out for an unplanned adventure. Make an acquaintance at a restaurant by speaking in their language. Eat a local dish you’ve never heard of, and share it on Instagram. Whatever you do will surely become a hilarious or exciting story for your friends and family to enjoy.
5. Make Friends
Fight the homesickness while abroad by making friends at your destination. It’s always nice to have a person or two around who understands you and can lend a listening ear when you need it. Get to know your roommate, or link up with classmates for lunch and dinner. Your fellow students are likely to know the best spots for hanging out and dining, and if they don’t, you can discover some together.
Befriending the locals is another great avenue for building connections. They can show you around the area and lead you to the optimal spots for low-priced shopping, eating out and more. At the end of your journey, you’ll look back and realize how many relationships you’ve created — some which last a lifetime.
6. Manage Your Money
You’re floating in a sea of pretty trinkets, souvenirs and foreign goods — so many shopping centers, so little time.
You’ll naturally want to spend money while you’re abroad, but keep an eye on your bank accounts and cards to ensure you don’t run out. Budgeting probably isn’t your favorite activity, but it helps you track finances and spend reasonably. Make your money last until the final day of your trip to avoid coming up short during the festivities.
7. Prioritize Your Academics
The idea of studying abroad probably makes your heart pound with excitement, but studying? Not so much. However, if you’re going overseas to further your education, you’re likely studying a subject you’re passionate about.
Stay on top of your studies during the journey and make the educational part of your trip count. Sightseeing and trying new things is fun, but don’t forget to bring home new educational insights.
Jump Into an Exciting Journey
Turn your trip abroad into a thrilling adventure by following these helpful suggestions. Stay safe, keep your studies in mind and take risks as they come. When you make the most out of life, you’ll be eager to jump back into foreign waters once again.