So you’ve chosen to study abroad and you’ve been accepted. Now what? Don’t think that just because you’ve signed up that everything else will fall in place and you will have a great semester. You have to put an effort in to make the most of your study abroad experience!
I’ve put together some steps for the study abroad novice to follow to ensure you have the time of your life!
1. Make a list of your goals.
What do you want to accomplish while abroad? Why did you want to go in the first place? Making a simple list of your goals will help you keep in mind how you want to spend your time abroad. Do you want to learn a new language? Make friends with locals? Go deeper into your major? Try a new food every week? Once your accomplished the items on your list you can cross them off, just because we all know how satisfying it is to cross things off our list!
2. Pack Twice.
New travelers always pack too much. So go ahead, pack what you want, then repack only what you need. Do some research on your destination, what do people wear? There is no need to pack your winter jacket if it will be 80° the whole semester! You never need to pack for more than two weeks: there will be laundry available! Also, remember to bring a small bag or backpack for weekend trips. For more packing tips see Ten Packing Tips for the Study Abroad Student
Whether you’re going abroad to concentrate on your major, learn a language or take a break and explore new subjects, take some time choosing the classes you’ll be taking abroad. Sit down with your academic adviser before you go to discuss your options. Are there any general education requirements you can fulfill abroad? Does the school you’re attending specialize in an interesting subject? You will have fun on your semester abroad, just remember to take full advantage of the academic opportunities as well! See Five Steps to Language Fluency
Many students go abroad, and only make new friendships with other Americans. You will have a great bond with the other Americans on your trip, and those relationships will probably last for long after you return home. But, you could have met them here. Make an effort to have local friends. This will be much easier if you have integrated classes. If you don’t, think about joining a club, whether it’s a hiking club, music group or a sports team, this is a great way to get involved. If you don’t know where to start, ask your onsite coordinator if they have relationships with any local students that would like to get involved with the international students. Read Sustaining Your Study Abroad Friendships
5. Be Bold.
We will regret the things we didn’t do and the opportunities we didn’t take far more than what we did do. When you’re out at a pub, strike up a conversation with someone outside of the program. Take a tip from the Yes Man and try new things. Have great adventures, you don’t know when the next time you’ll be there again. See Try 10 New Things Abroad Part I & Part II
This may sound cliché, but it is so important! You may think you have a great memory, but you’ll be surprised how quickly your memory of the details slips away. Don’t just write about what you did or where you went. Write about what you were thinking, what were your inspirations that day? What did the market smell like? What sounds did you wake up to? Write it down when you feel challenged, when something goes wrong; this is the interesting stuff. This record will make it easy for you to see your personal growth as well as being a great reminder of the great experiences you had. See Never Forget Your Study Abroad Experience
7. Stay Safe.
You may be inclined to sleep through the safety and risk management briefs during your orientation. Don’t. This is important information, no one will have a good time if you end up in an emergency situation and don’t know how to deal with it. So, have fun, but keep safety in mind; see tips in Being Safe While Abroad
“If you spend 50% of your time in the local culture, and 50% of your time trying to keep your life going back home, you will not have a full experience in either place.”
A common challenge for travelers is balancing their time between home and abroad. You should keep in touch with your friends and family back home, but remember to live in the here and now as well. Don’t spend every night Skyping back home. Set up a time, to connect with your partents, maybe once a week. See To Skype or Not to Skype.
This balance also applies to staying in your town abroad or travelling on the weekends. Don’t miss out on the local sites by travelling every weekend. Read The Pros and Cons of Traveling While Studying Abroad
Avoid Study Abroad Overshare Disorder and get it all out online. We are happy to be your outlet for study abroad stories. Write a review here. Did you write a blog while abroad? You can connect it to your program on Abroad101.
10. Integrate your International Experience.
Your Study Abroad experience doesn’t have to end when you come home. Integrate you time abroad with future academic and career goals. Use the next opportunity of a research assignment to learn more about something that sparked your interest abroad. Also, keep in mind all the personal growth you made while abroad. You will have gained valuable skills that will make you stand out to employers. Read How to Highlight Your Study Abroad Experience for Professional Development: Introduction, Reflect, Connect & Professionalize.