5 Reasons to Learn the Language Basics Before you Study Abroad

Group of happy students at their desks in college classroom

How do you prepare for a semester abroad? A lot of the details are taken care of for you – a place to stay, a place to study, and a group of people to share the experience with. You might even be set up with a language class once you arrive to learn some of the language. However, the language learning is better off started before you step foot out of the country. Here are some of the top benefits reported for studying the language of the country visited before leaving.

Softening the Culture Shock

Traveling to a new country brings a lot of change at one time. You will be in a new landscape with people speaking a different language. There will be new rules and norms for catching a cab, ordering food, and dressing. It can be a bit of a shock to have all of this change at one time. These first few days and weeks in this new country should be the experience of a lifetime and best spent without having to go through much of an adjustment period. Learning just the essentials of this new language can help reduce this shock quite a bit upon arrival. Learn how  greet others when you meet them and get familiar with the language you will be hearing all around you. You might even be able to pick up a word here and there.

Building Excitement

There are many aspects of studying abroad that are exciting. Being engulfed in the culture of a new country brings history, seeing museums and old buildings, hearing stories, meeting new people, and speaking the language of the country. A lot of this can be done before you ever step foot in that new country. Learning the language and practicing the basics with your friends is one way to not only get familiar with the language, but build the excitement of getting to use these new phrases with people in your country of study.

Offers a Stepping Stone

Hopefully in your time studying abroad, you will get familiar with the language and be able to have small conversations before you come home. Knowing the basics before you travel can help kickstart this learning of the language. Learn the basics before you go – greetings, ordering food, asking directions, and phrases that will help you learn more, such as “How do you say…? These basics will make it easier to get off the beaten path and adventure out on your own even from day one in this new country. As long as you know how to ask for directions, greet others and interact with employees in shops, you will be able to get around the towns easily.

Meeting New Friends

Time studying abroad is limited and it will be over before you know it. So there is no time to waste when it comes to meeting new people. Be able to introduce yourself and meet new people right away to ensure that you take full advantage of your time in this new country. Even if you can’t carry on the conversation past telling the other person where you are from, greeting others in their own language and putting forth an effort is, a lot of the time, enough to show that you are friendly and continue a friendship.

Safety

No matter how well your trip is planned, it is always best to steer on the safe side. What will you do if you find yourself separated from others you know and need to find your way back?  Or what if you lose your phone and wallet? Knowing the language will help you to find your way back and ask for help in locating your lost items or reporting them and getting back to where you need to be for additional help. For this look for phrases that teach both asking for directions and understanding the response – how do I get to, turn right, turn left, 3 miles.

You don’t have to learn the entire language or be fluent by any means. This will hopefully build over time while you are studying abroad. There are some tools that you can use to get this basic understanding of the language. Programs such as Duolingo, Fluent Forever and Rosetta Stone are meant more for learning the entire language long term. If you have a year or so before your trip, by all means, try these. But if you only have a few months to prepare for your trip, you can pick up a phrase book, like the one from Lonely Planet. The upside to this is that the book is small so you can pack it easily in your bag if needed as well. There are also online programs you can access to help study, such as flashcards for common phrases from The Tandem Traveler, or a three month program for travelers from Living Language. It can be difficult to figure out which phrases will be most useful while traveling when you don’t have a lot of time to pick up the language. These programs do that work for you.

Whatever you reason is, learn at least the 100 most common words and phrases for travelers. Time and again repeat travelers report that their experiences were so much better from travel where they studied the language first firsts trips where they dd not.

Guest Post by Lisa Sickman, MA, BCBA

lisa-sickmanLisa Sickman, MA, BCBA, is a behavior analyst and the Co-founder and Chief Learning Officer at The Tandem Traveler. The Tandem Traveler is an online company committed to teaching language to travelers for better cultural experiences abroad. 

Studying Abroad Online vs Classroom Education

 

Plenty of wise men throughout the years have stated that true education is a never-ending process. Whether you aim to maximize your income prospects or if you simply want to know more about the world we live in, there can be no doubt that furthering your education is one of the best roads you can take in life.  Combining travel and studies has been show to provide a powerful combination of experiences and give students not only a memorable experience, it is often referred to as life changing. Not too many college alumni will say a campus-based Chemistry class was life-changing, but if that course was taken while the student was overseas, then wow!

Whereas once upon a time the only way to earn college credit was by physically attending a place of learning, nowadays the online revolution has swept up the educational system as well. In fact, in this day and age you can even study abroad online, as many top schools throughout the world allow students of all nationalities to earn prestigious degrees without ever setting foot in a classroom.  If you have the discipline to balance both study and travel, then you might want to create your own personal hybrid program and take online courses while you trek.

 

Cost

In most parts of the world, getting a good education isn’t cheap. With skyrocketing tuition costs and relatively meager employment prospects for recent grads, it’s fair to wonder if higher education is actually worth the investment. Additionally, going the traditional route will also lead to incurring substantial fees for room and board, plus all the extra costs related to moving to another country. Opting for an online education tends to be comparatively cheaper overall, especially when it comes to schools that focus solely on long distance learning and have lower overhead costs as a result.

Accessibility

A significant part of the traditional college experience is related to the idea of going away to another part of the country or the world, where new people and experiences await. While this kind of thing can undoubtedly seem exciting when you’re young, for people who already have to balance familial obligations and maybe even a full-time job with their educational goals, it often is a bridge too far. Online education comes with the possibility of handling coursework right from the comforts of your home, which doesn’t require any commute time at all. But some online education providers also offer the possibility of traveling to their respective learning facilities on short-term internships, thus giving prospective students the chance to broaden their cultural horizons as well.

Experience

The feeling of being in a classroom surrounded by your peers is something that’s treasured by many, and it’s a big part of why traditional education is still the norm all over the world. But online education has also come a long way from its humble beginnings, with schools now boasting cutting edge online platforms replete with videoconferencing options and personalized mentors. Of course, not actually being in a classroom means you can self-regulate study pace, thus allowing you to complete a course on your own schedule, with dedicated teachers just a click away to provide support whenever you need it.

Course accreditation

By receiving accreditation conferred to it by a respected external body, an institute of learning receives an official seal of approval that certifies its tional programs. In most countries, this kind of quality assurance is provided by a government organization, and can be of great importance when looking for employment later on. In this regard online schools have traditionally lagged behind their competition, but nowadays a simple online search is all you need to find out if the program you’re thinking about applying for is accredited or not.

Directional City Signs

Overall effectiveness

Probably the most important thing about earning a diploma is its inherent value in finding a great job. To that end, it can be useful to check the track record of all your prospective schools and see what their post-graduate employment levels look like. If you’re looking for immediate employment, you’ll often find that online institutions tend to focus more on teaching you job-ready skills in growing industries such as Accounting or Workplace Health and Safety than traditional learning facilities. Additionally, reputable institutions will also have a dedicated network of alumni, whom you can contact to learn more about how they benefited from attending their respective schools.

 

It’s clear to see that studying abroad online offers all the benefits typically associated with traditional classroom education, while also being considerably cheaper and more accessible. It may not be for everyone, as some people will likely miss the feeling of being in a real classroom, but for those who enjoy its myriad perks, online education can be a real game-changer.

 

Confirm the Quality

Before you make your final choice it is important to confirm you plans with an advisor to make sure your plans are in synch with your educational goals.  For those earned academic credits to help you in your career, you do want to make sure they are credible, recognized and applicable.

Leave your Kids (Abroad) Alone

two gifts quote

The year: 1986. The place: My childhood home in NY. The scene: The kitchen where a tan, old school phone with an unruly curly cord hangs on the wall. The language: Portuguese.

On one end of the phone was Sergio, my exchange student “brother” from São Paulo, Brasil. On the other end, what felt like a million miles away, were his parents.   Receiving a call from them was a BIG deal back then. With that phone call Sergio morphed from my English speaking, high school attending “brother” into a young boy from São Paulo who spoke a foreign language. To me, it felt like a completely different person was standing in the kitchen speaking loudly into the phone. The connections weren’t great back then and the call surely was expensive. Magically, with the click of the receiver, American Sergio returned to our family’s view.

Today, Sergio’s son, Gabriel, is living in my home as a year long high school exchange student. As I write this, he is at varsity (American) football practice. He is as adventurous as his brave dad was back in 1986, playing a sport he had only watched tirelessly on TV and the internet.

As a result, I have a bird’s eye view of what it means to be a parent and to miss your child when s/he is abroad. I see Gabi adapting to his new home city, processing and speaking in English 24/7, eager to engage in the world around him. And through Facebook chat and video, I hear his parents’ bellowing in pain from missing their beloved son. As a parent myself to a 20 month old, I can only begin to appreciate what another 14 years of time with my child will translate to when he eventually heads abroad for an extended period one day.

Yet, I cannot help but reflect back on that very vivid scene of Sergio talking with his parents on the phone. So what does any good interculturalist do upon reflection? She asks questions! I logged into Facebook and called Sergio in Brasil to ask him about how he is coping with his son’s absence AND to discuss his family’s plans to come to the US to spend time with us over the holidays. Yes, despite the title of this piece, Sergio and his family WILL come visit us this winter.

Sergio and family

My “brother” Sergio and son, Gabriel approximately 13 years ago. His wife (left) and I (right) hold their twin daughters. Photo taken in Brasil on New Year’s Eve (2002)?

I reflected with Sergio about the scenario above. He thought about it briefly and stated that it is much easier to talk to his son than it was for his parents, yet he has to restrain himself from doing so every day. He wants to talk about the latest Jason Bourne movie that he saw after he heard that Gabi and my husband, Tony, went to the premiere together last week – something they would have done together if Gabi were home in Brasil. He wanted to hear all about his first day of American football practice. He wants to know what he thinks of our city, our home, and what it is like to have a 20 month old brother after having sisters. It is natural to want to stay connected to your child, but Sergio knows how important it is that he allow him space during this tender period of being a new exchange student.   He remembers well how he immersed so seamlessly into our family and community in New York…and how he wants that joy for his own son. He and his wife have told me many times – no matter how much they miss him, they are more happy for him than anything.

I called another friend whose two daughters are both abroad – one is in Europe for 3 weeks while the other is on a study abroad program for a semester. I asked her about how she is adapting to the absence of her girls. Her response was that she misses them but has been very careful not to over communicate in that fragile first week or two, as that is when the bonding needs to happen. They don’t schedule times to talk and she has only “facetimed” once with her daughter in Europe.   She finds it strange that they have had the occasion to text their daughter in South America for random things (e.g. what is the Netflix password!) but otherwise they’re intentionally keeping some distance. When I asked if they planned to visit their elder daughter at the end of her study abroad program they said they’re thinking about it. When I pushed further, she indicated that they felt it would be okay to visit at the end of her semester program as it would give her a chance to show confidence in the language and experience without interrupting her studies. They would not visit if the program were shorter than a semester and wouldn’t do so in the middle of the program – and they may not even do so.

Sergio said the same – if Gabi were coming to the US for a few months only, he’d not plan to visit. But he is adamant that a visiting over the holidays for two weeks when his son will be here for an entire 12 months is acceptable because they won’t interrupt his studies, sports, or friends’ gatherings.

Why should a loving parent not visit a son or daughter on study abroad? After all, you miss each other, so what is the harm in doing so?

There are my two reasons NOT to visit your child on study abroad:

  • You may interrupt their flow: Study abroad requires immersion, space to make mistakes, learn a new language, gain confidence, engage in a new way of being in this world. When you visit your child while on a shorter term study abroad program, you unintentionally are stepping into his/her ability to find and maintain flow in their new surroundings. It is analogous to having to hit pause in your daily life to trot your parents to see everything that you’re experiencing in record time, doing none of it justice. It also doesn’t allow for your child to reflect deeply on the experiences, places and people that are just beginning to capture their attention. If you “leave them be” they will simply have more time to participate in their new culture and to let the new connections in their brains form solid pathways without having to revert back to what they know, their default way of being. So, don’t interrupt their flow, no matter how much they tell you that you HAVE to come to try the gelato in their favorite shop in Venice.
  • Your child will become more independent and learn more life skills: If you stay away from that airport you will likely observe, upon his/her return, that you gifted your child with a better chance of kicking independence into high gear. I see it with Gabi – he is speaking in English only, asking questions of others to gain information that helps him navigate his surroundings, engaging in new friendships even though it is scary to approach people you don’t know, washing his own laundry, unloading the dishwasher, making his own lunch, talking with his football coaches directly, and so much more. If you want an independent kid, don’t get on a plane and ask your child to hit pause on growth in their new home country in exchange for the ability to educate you and reinforce their learning for you. They will tell you ALL about it when they’re home while showing you their confidence and how empowered they have become. Additionally, if you’re willing to wait that long, you may find that you are truly the only person on the planet willing to sit through all 7,000 photos and hear all of the stories – an opportunity to bond with each other in a reflective learning space – and they’ll certainly appreciate that.

As difficult as it is to not get on the plane, staying home also offers YOU an opportunity for growth. What can you do with your time instead of checking in on your child? Here are 3 ideas:

  • Engage in new activities: Sergio started going to the gym each day, as he has found a lot more free time since his son is away for the year. Perhaps you can surprise your child by studying the language class of his/her study abroad country at home. With less face to face time with your beloved child, you have a chance to find your inner child! Sign up for an art class, join a book club, or pull out that list of places locally you have been meaning to visit. Take your child’s adventurous spirit and apply it at home.
  • Reconsider your adult relationship: Your child will eventually return home with a heightened maturity. Think about how you can relate to your “baby” as an adult – someone who has not only ventured away for college, but to an entirely new country and language. Make a list of items to discuss with him/her upon return such as “What has changed for you and how can we incorporate that into our home?” and “What do I need to be aware of to be supportive during your transition home?”
  • Talk to YOUR parents: Reflect on your own transitions in life and how your own relationship with your parents ebbed and flowed over the years. What stands out for you? When did you most need them to let you cut the apron strings? How did they deal with you taking the leap and trusting the net would appear? Journal some of these memories to rely on when your own child needs space and freedom from the family unit.

With that said, Sergio and I are planning for his family’s visit over the winter holidays. We decided that a year IS a really long time not to see your child and that we want to support a wonderful gathering, not only for his own family but for Sergio to visit his New York “hometown” for a reunion of host parents, friends, teachers, and families. I look forward to such a reflective experience, not only with him, but with his son too.

What are your thoughts about letting a son or daughter navigate the education abroad experience without a visit from a parent? I invite you to comment below!

 

missy gluckman

 

Missy Gluckmann is a traveler, educator, interculturalist, trainer, speaker and career coach specializing in international education and careers across cultures. Originally from New York, she has lived abroad three times, most recently in Cuenca, Ecuador, and is currently enjoying the gorgeous mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. She founded Melibee Global and Better Abroad as a way to inject creative tools into international education, with an emphasis on study abroad. You can connect with on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

The Importance of Cultural Training when Studying Abroad

Cultural Training

Cultural sensitivities are a crucial part of the any individual travel experience. This is especially important when studying abroad for long-periods as a student will become more involved in the local community, therefore customs and values must be adhered in order to maintain good cultural standing whilst experiencing the phenomenal reality of cultural immersion that comes from overseas study.

When undertaking a study course in a foreign country it is important to learn about the social and cultural values that are important in that country or province. Those living in Western democracies with strong health and safety, moral and ethical principles – from democracy, gender and sexuality anti-discrimination and more – can find it difficult living for extended periods in places where such “constitutional rights” may not exist or are interpreted differently. Therefore, undertaking cultural training when considering a study break abroad is a critical next step.

What can you learn?

Did you know that nearly 14,382 under 25’s are involved in arrests or detainments due to cultural sensitivity issues across the world (1)? The great many of these issues are resolved amicably; however, five per cent will result in a penal conviction due to a misunderstanding over drugs, cultural issues or country-specific law breaking. Having to rely solely on a legal translation/interpretation service is just not worth it, getting cultural training can help focus would-be students’ minds on the skill of valuing and understanding cultural differences. Restated: Don’t count on a language translation app to get local police to give you a break.

Such training courses can evaluate and analyze the role awareness plays in creating in-depth perception of cultural sensitivities and cultural differences. By understanding the role of perception and the power of sensitivity, one can help to build the right foundation for cultural sensitivity competence. This awareness can help inform people of the importance of multi-culturalism, gender issues, sexuality and local customs and how to enhance enjoyment opportunities without breaking customs or values which lead to sensitivity-based issues relating to culture.

Understanding perception, as stated above, is also part of the wider issue of illegality. What US citizens deem to be legal and appropriate does not equate to what a foreign student in a foreign country would equate to being legal and appropriate. It is crucial that any cultural sensitivity training helps students understand particular laws and customs that are important – understanding taboos in foreign countries – which, if broken, can lead to legal or moral dilemmas for students experiencing overseas educational experiences.

city street

It is also important to learn about culture in a way that moves the view of “fun” away from high-energy alcohol-infused clubbing into a more focused enjoyment of cultural experiences within host countries. This is not advocating less fun but looking at enjoyment through the perspective of local people and communities. If alcohol is allowed, and remember many nations ban the consumption of alcohol especially in the Middle East, you can taste the local wonders but responsibility is key in projecting cultural sensitivities. In the Far East, drinking too much is seen as decadent and wrong. Yet, they have bars and restaurants and serve local alcoholic beverages. It is about knowing not just your own health limits but cultural differences. Follow your local family or friends leads, they are your cultural anchors in understanding the role of sensitivity and awareness in your actions as an educational tourist abroad.

What can training offer young people?

It can help create a more rounded individual. Undertaking cultural sensitivity training, a young adult, can learn about themselves by developing an awareness of social norms in both the US or western country they inhabit and placing them alongside the host country they will be experiencing. This lived experience is about developing character. However, character is also based on self-development. Undertaking a training course focused on cultural sensitivities can help to inform decision-making based on educating young people about the role of culture in local environs and how decisions can result in negative local sentiment and possibly illegal actions.

Conclusions

If you are a parent or a student looking at cultural sensitivity training, why not look at what such training can offer. Understanding local customs, values and beliefs can help young people experience overseas education in a safe and responsible way. This is about teaching prospective students about their actions and the consequences therein. By teaching individuals about consequences, trainers can also imbue students with a wider understanding of global cultural experiences. These two inter-connected issues are part of the training process and a core reason for why cultural sensitivity training is so popular for US and Western educated students whom undertake foreign educational breaks. Why not get in touch with a cultural sensitivity coach today who can help you understand more about culture, consequence and responsibility leading to a greater enjoyment of foreign educational experiences.

 

Author Bio: Mike Parsons works for Kwintessential.co.uk a company that specialise in professional translation, transcreation and interpretation

 

Hyperlink References:

Life in Spain vs. Life in the U.S.

Parents, thinking of visiting your college student abroad? While your world-traveler is learning about a new culture and building memories, it’s also the perfect opportunity for a vacation for you! 

While you likely did a fair share of research before he or she left, actually experiencing the culture with them is a totally different feeling. Moreover, seeing a familiar face can be comforting for many students experiencing a bit of culture shock or homesickness. No matter how many Spanish classes you’ve taken, for example, navigating the world in your non-native language is nervewracking for many.

Even for a short jaunt to Spain, it’s smart to understand the lifestyle differences before you board the plane. TakeLessons.com recently shared a helpful article and infographic about life in Spain that provides a great introduction; check out the graphic below, and read more on their blog

Culture-Shock-Life-in-Spain-vs.-Life-in-the-U.S.-Infographic

WHO SHOULD STUDY ABROAD

India-Manipal-Manipal Univ

WHO SHOULD STUDY ABROAD

This is the third in a series of posts about “who-what-when-where-why-how to study abroad.” This post will address the “who” part of the question. This series is written for American students interested in studying abroad, but it provides useful information and thoughts for everyone.

Living in a foreign country is not for everyone, and that’s perfectly ok. The problem is that some students misunderstand what studying abroad is about, and end up in an environment that they didn’t expect and don’t enjoy. So before spending considerable time and money you should take a moment to consider if studying abroad is something that would suit and benefit you.

KNOW THYSELF

Studying abroad is an experience that would be extremely valuable for the majority of students, so it’s easier to talk about who should think twice before studying abroad. In my opinion, the most important issue is the popular confusion between living abroad and traveling abroad, because expectations (and ultimately the overall experience) hinges on initial motivations.

One of my pet peeves is being asked how I managed to travel for twelve years. This is the question I sometimes get when I tell people that I lived overseas for twelve years. It’s immediately clear that they see me as a kind of global Christopher McCandless, hitching rides from one place to another with a dusty backpack and not a care in the world. Living abroad is not like that. For whatever reason, American culture confuses being abroad with travel, and travel with vacation. Disappointing experiences abroad often stem from this confusion.

Close your eyes and picture yourself “studying abroad.” Do you see yourself sunbathing on a beach, taking selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower, or partying with exciting foreigners? Then you’ve probably fallen prey to this popular misconception. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being excited about those things and looking forward to them as part of your experience, but if they are your primary motivations then maybe you’re really looking for a vacation. A vacation is about getting away from reality and enjoying creature comforts, living abroad is about embracing an unknown reality and getting outside your comfort zone. If the latter sounds exciting to you (and it’s completely normal if that excitement is mingled with nervousness), then you probably have the right kind of personality for studying abroad.

Getting out of your comfort zone has become something of a cliché, so let’s look a little deeper. Do you enjoy meeting new people, trying unknown food, visiting unfamiliar cities, or starting new activities? These things define life as a foreigner and will be part of your daily experience, at least for the first few months. Everything is new, from figuring out where to do your grocery shopping to creating new social circles. This is intimidating to everyone at first, but if you already dislike change in your home country and a life of constant adjustment and unknowns sounds terrifying then you should seriously examine your motivations for studying abroad. Similar to this is homesickness, which is something everyone deals with to some degree, but if you’ve had recent experiences when being away from home for more than a couple weeks was nearly unbearable, then there’s no reason why being in another country would magically change this and there’s a good chance you’d have a very difficult time getting much enjoyment from living abroad.

To be fair, I have known people who went abroad because they were introverts, homebodies, or generally unadventurous, and they wanted to change those characteristics. In most cases they were quite successful in these goals, so clearly all personality types can benefit. I think the key is entering the experience knowing that it will be hard and wanting to grow and change as a result, so again the key is a willingness to step outside comfort zones and embrace the new and different. You can be even more sure of your readiness if you close your eyes and see yourself practicing a foreign language, experiencing how people live differently from you, and discovering new food, music, art, sports, hobbies, and passions that you never knew existed. These are the defining features of study abroad.

LET’S GET PRACTICAL

Moving on to more practical concerns, Matthew Karsten sums it up well when explaining why he never studied abroad: “Like many people, I assumed it was expensive, I’d fall behind in credits, would have difficulty with the language, and was nervous of the whole idea.” (http://expertvagabond.com/reasons-to-study-abroad/) He goes on to explain why all of these were misconceptions. If fact, because American tuition is higher than in much of the world, studying abroad can often be managed for the same cost (or even less! https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2014/10/29/7-countries-where-americans-can-study-at-universities-in-english-for-free-or-almost-free/ ) as a semester at your home university. Likewise for falling behind academically, there’s no reason why studying abroad should slow you down if you plan carefully. There are study abroad programs designed for practically every major imaginable (and studyabroad101.com is a great place to start with this list of study abroad programs by major: https://www.studyabroad101.com/subjects), and if you go early in your college career you will have considerable flexibility in taking courses for GE credit. Finally, foreign language is definitely a perk of studying abroad but not at all a prerequisite. You could study in one of many English speaking countries like Ireland, New Zealand, or South Africa, or a country where English is commonly spoken like Sweden, Singapore, or Ghana. There are also countless programs taught entirely in English all over the world, so don’t let a lack of foreign language skills slow you down. For better or worse, studying in a foreign country does not mean studying in a foreign language. So, none of these concerns should stop you from at least researching your options further.

However, there are other practical elements that should give you pause. If you do all the math, apply for scholarships, and realize that in the end you’ll go deeper into debt in order to study abroad, then you need to think carefully about what it will bring to you in terms of career opportunities and academic advancement. As valuable as it is I’m not going to tell you that studying abroad is worth any cost at all, especially when there’s the option to wait and plan for a tuition free graduate degree abroad, for example. Health is another factor, although I’ve met people who went abroad despite being blind or in a wheelchair, so there are ways to make it work with proper preparation. But in general living abroad means being ready for the unexpected, so if you have a condition that means an unexpected event could result in a life or death situation, then you need to be sure that the benefit to you is worth the higher level of risk that your situation entails. Being in a serious relationship is also a factor. Long distance relationships are not impossible to maintain, but it definitely adds a strain and requires discipline from you to invest time into the relationship despite being far away. Could the two of you study abroad together? Would you be able to visit each other every few months? In all these cases of financial, medical, or relationship concerns, consider short term study abroad program for two to four weeks. That would mitigate the risk, and if you absolutely love it then you’ll be able to plan for a longer program with the confidence that it’s worth it.

Some readers probably found this article because they’re wondering if they’re old enough to study abroad. I see this more as a question of maturity, since there are some 14-year-olds who are absolutely ready and others of any age who will well suited for the challenge. More and more high school students are studying abroad, whether for a few weeks or a year, but it’s more complex than for college students because it’s definitely not cheaper than studying in a public high school at home, the program needs more oversight and adult supervision, and it can be difficult to make sure that credits abroad fit into the standard high school curriculum. That said, as I will detail in the “When to Study Abroad” article next week, if there’s a will and a way then the sooner the better! As for maturity, it goes back to the first section of this article: If you’re ready to embrace change, accept differences in people without judgement, seek opportunities for personal growth, and the idea of being pushed out of of your comfort zone sounds like an adventure, then you’re probably mature enough!

READY FOR A BIGGER CHALLENGE?

There’s a final question about who should study abroad in a challenging country. There will be a lot more information about this in the “Where to Study Abroad” article, so don’t miss that. In that article I will explain why I strongly recommend studying in a less mainstream country (i.e. outside Europe). However, this means that everything I’ve said here about evaluating your flexibility and openness to change counts doubly. Living in Paris or Rome is already a challenge, even though the way of life is not dramatically different than in the US. Before considering a less-developed country you need to do some deeper self-examination. How would you respond to suddenly not having electricity for a day? How would you handle standing out as a foreigner everywhere you go? Could you cope with the presence of critters (bugs and small reptiles) in your home? Are you ready to eat something you can’t identify? These are just a few examples, so be sure to read about the experiences of students who lived there in study abroad reviews and blogs, and ask yourself honestly if the challenges they faced would prevent you from enjoying the overall experience. That being said, and as I’ll explain in a future article, greater challenge means greater reward!

SUMMING UP

Ultimately there is no solid checklist or personality test you that can clearly demonstrate how well suited you are to studying abroad, so I can only stress the importance of internal evaluation. If the idea of being immersed in an entirely different culture fills you with excitement rather than fear, if meeting a new circle of people sound like an adventure rather than hell, and if being pushed out of your comfort zone to do new things sounds like an opportunity for growth rather than senseless torture, then you’re probably the type of person who would thrive abroad. If that’s your case, then no logistical concerns should stop you from at least taking the next step in researching your opportunities. There are programs to advance every major, scholarships abound, and medical obstacles can be overcome. Talk to your academic advisor, do some more research, and pursue the goal!

You should be very cautious, however, if your list of primary motivations for studying abroad make it sound like a long vacation. Likewise, if you find yourself saying things like “I just need to get away,” or “I need a break from my problems here,” then you’ll probably be disappointed to discover the truth of the saying “wherever you go, there you are.” We have a way of taking our problems with us, and a new environment do not magically transform us unless we are first open to changing and growing irrespective of the environment. If your motivations are good, however, I truly believe that nothing will help you grow and learn faster than studying abroad.

Feel free to share this article with someone who’s considering studying abroad, and all comments or questions below will be answered. Next week we’ll discuss “When to Study Abroad,” so don’t miss it! Thanks for reading!

Caleb House –

Caleb House grew up in Northern California and has lived in the Czech Republic, Japan, India, Tanzania, France, South Korea, Germany, and Côte d’Ivoire as a student, teacher, volunteer, backpacker, researcher, and administrator. He holds graduate degrees in Modern Global History from Jacobs University Bremen and in International Management from the Burgundy School of Business. He recently married his soulmate in her tiny village in France, and the two currently find themselves in Washington D.C. He is preparing the launch of his website, HowToGoAbroad.com, and in the meantime can be contacted with questions on his Facebook page “How to Go Abroad” or on Twitter @HowToGoAbroad.  

 

Why Study Abroad, Part II

AmericanUniv sharjahPart Two

This is the second in a series of posts about “who-what-when-where-why-how to study abroad.” This post will continue the question “Why Study Abroad?” In the previous post you may have noticed that most of the arguments for studying abroad apply to living abroad in any capacity, as a student, teacher, volunteer, or businessman abroad. So this post is targeted at students who find the idea of living abroad appealing, but are considering finishing their education first and finding a way to go abroad after their studies. While that’s a perfectly reasonable option, I think that if you have the opportunity to go abroad as a student then you should seize it. Why? Read on!

LEARN TO SWIM BEFORE JUMPING OFF THE BOAT

Study abroad is to life abroad as university is to “real life.” It’s designed to be a transition that guides and prepares you while maintaining a security net to protect you from the harder falls. In short, it offers nearly all of the benefits of living abroad while excluding the more annoying difficulties. This is because there will be at least two and possibly three entire offices of professionals (your original school, the school abroad, and often a third study abroad “provider” that organizes the exchange) dedicated to making the experience as smooth and rewarding as possible. There is no other opportunity to live abroad that will offer you that kind of support. This means that some of the most frustrating elements of living abroad (finding a place to live, getting through visa bureaucracy, learning how to get around, paying bills correctly, even going to the post office!) will all be made much easier for you, if not taken care of entirely!

FRIENDS ABOUND

In most cases, you’ll have a much better start socially as well. Living in a foreign country can be a very lonely experience even for the most outgoing people. While study abroad programs vary widely according to whether you spend most of your time with locals, other internationals, or students from your own country, in almost all cases you are immediately introduced into a social group that you’ll spend a lot of time with and you’ll have a lot of social opportunities from the beginning. Very few other opportunities abroad offer this kind of “ready to wear” social environment. This is critical, because in my experience living in nine different countries, what makes or breaks the experience is the friends you do or do not make.

CLEAR VALUE, NO QUESTIONS ASKED

Finally, there’s the long-term structural benefit of studying abroad. You won’t need to take “time out” from your long-term goals to experience life abroad, and soaking up a foreign culture and language while taking your necessary classes is like catching two fish with one net! It’s also easier to explain that fact to others, like parents, university admissions departments, and prospective employers. Whether it’s the only time you’ll live in a foreign country or the beginning of an international life, study abroad translates onto résumés and application letter better than any other experience abroad (with the possible exception of something prestigious, like the Peace Corps or Doctors Without Borders). Teaching in Korea, or volunteering in Tanzania, or backpacking across India, as wonderful as the experiences are, need to be explained and carefully translated so that the gate-keepers of your next life-step understand how the experience made you more valuable to them as an employee or student. Depending on the person you’re trying to convince, it’s not always easy. Study abroad, however, is a universally accepted concept that everyone understands (or thinks they do), and it is always seen positively.

PLUS EVERYTHING ELSE!

Of course, these are the advantages to studying abroad compared to other foreign opportunities, and study abroad comes with all the rewards discussed in earlier posts that apply to living abroad in any capacity. The adventure, increased independence and tolerance, foreign language experience, the revolutionized worldview, the way it enriches your passion for the world and makes you a more interesting person, and the excitement of stepping out of your comfort zone and really “living life,” these are all benefits of living abroad, and no less so for study abroad! So if living abroad is on your bucket list, there’s no time like the present!

Next week I’ll discuss who should study abroad, and how to know if you’re “ready.”  To find a study abroad program that suits you please visit www.studyabroad101.com 

 

– Caleb House

Caleb House grew up in Northern California and has lived in the Czech Republic, Japan, India, Tanzania, France, South Korea, Germany, and Côte d’Ivoire as a student, teacher, volunteer, backpacker, researcher, and school administrator. He holds an M.A. in Modern Global History from Jacobs University Bremen and an M.S. in International Management from the Burgundy School of Business. He recently married his French soulmate in her tiny village in the north of France, and the two currently find themselves in Washington D.C. He is preparing the launch of his website, HowToGoAbroad.com, and in the meantime can be contacted on his facebook community page, “How To Go Abroad,” or on Twitter: @HowToGoAbroad.  

WHY STUDY ABROAD

Truman students jumping high in the gold coast australia

Part One

This is the first in a series of posts about “who-what-when-where-why-how to study abroad.” Today we’ll start with “why.”

So you’ve heard of this “study abroad” thing and you’re wondering what it’s all about, if it’s for you, and how it works. You’ve come to the right place, although I should warn you that I’m a bit biased in favor of study abroad. I studied in Prague, Czech Republic for a semester during my BA, then did a two-year MA degree program in Germany (for FREE, by the way, but we’ll get to that), then a one-year MS program at a business school in France. Let me tell you now, study abroad is pretty great. However, it is not without challenges and difficulties, and the whole idea can seem very daunting especially if you haven’t spent much time out of your home country. So let’s take it one step at a time! For this post I want to suggest a few reasons why you should seriously consider studying abroad. It’s not difficult to find lists of up to 100 reasons, but I’m going to narrow it down to the ones I find more significant.

INDEPENDENCE AND PERSONAL GROWTH

This is not an easy thing to do, and that’s kind of the point. As intimidating as living in a foreign country might seem, take a moment to imagine how you’ll feel at the end of the program as you’re preparing to come home. There is incredible power in knowing that you faced every difficulty and learned how to stand on your own two feet in a different culture, and had a lot of fun doing it! You’ll learn how to navigate a new environment (probably after getting lost a couple times, but you also learn that it’s okay to get lost), to be comfortable with new people, to deal with the unexpected more confidently, to simply be more comfortable in your skin. I truly believe there is no faster way to grow up than living abroad, outside your comfort zone. Later, when you consider how nervous you were at the beginning and how much fun and adventure you ended up having, no challenge or problem will seem as intimidating again. But don’t take it from me, if you look through the thousands of study abroad student reviews on Abroad101 it will only take you a minute or two to find students using phrases like “life changing” and “I learned to be independent” and “my confidence skyrocketed.” These students have earned the right to say to themselves: “I’ve been places, I’ve explored boldly, I have proven that I am brave and strong.” All it takes is jumping into the experience, and the confidence you gain is something no one will ever be able to take away from you.

Skills

There is a wide range of skills that you can learn faster and better being abroad. Language is the most obvious example, and you’ll find that six months of immersion in a language is equivalent to years of classroom study, if you approach it correctly. Other skills like writing and photography might suddenly blossom because everything around you is new and interesting, and the creative part of your brain will work overtime trying to capture the magic of your surroundings. There’s also the high potential of discovering passions you never knew you had by coming into contact with your host country’s sports, games, cuisine, fashion, history, landscape, etc. If you do get fascinated by something culturally specific like a Chinese martial art, or cricket in India, or French wine, or Spanish cooking, or Japanese flower arranging, then where better to develop your new skills than in the country that created it? You will very likely return home with abilities and interests you never knew existed. Not only does that bring joy to your life, but it makes you an interesting person who stands out from the crowd.

Broader Worldview

Broadening your horizons and perception of the world is kind of a skill in itself, but it stands alone as an extremely valuable reward of living abroad. Without seeing the real world beyond our own country with our own eyes, it is difficult or impossible to really grasp the complexity and diversity of our planet. The first few weeks abroad your mind will be working overtime to process everything that seems familiar but is so different, and everything that seems so strange but is actually quite logical. The result will be a much more tolerant, intelligent, and mindful approach to life, informed by a new understanding of how you impact the lives of others and how they impact you. The more you open yourself to new experiences and ideas, the more you’ll have the sensation of not being rooted to one small corner of the world, but of being a true citizen of the world. The freedom, excitement, and fascination that comes with this realization is truly life changing in all the best ways.

Job and College Applications

I suppose you can see where I’m going with this one. These days, whether you’re applying to universities or writing a cover letter for your dream job, the name of the game is to stand out and be exceptional. While everyone can talk about their maturity, determination, self-sufficiency, and willingness to try new things, no one can prove those things more easily than someone who made the choice to live in a foreign country. In 2014 the number of Americans studying abroad was less than 1.5% of the total number of students in higher education in the US. Anything that puts you in a category of the most confident and experienced 1.5% of students is probably going to benefit you greatly, sooner rather than later. This will make admissions departments and prospective employers sit up and take notice.

Fun and Memories

Let’s not forget, living abroad is an incredible experience that will fill your life with more adventurous stories and happy memories than many years in your comfort zone. Every day offers something new, you meet locals who enrich your life and like-minded internationals to share in your experience. Every person’s story is different, and that’s the beauty of it, but everyone agrees that it’s most satisfying and worthwhile experience imaginable. Again, look through the 28,000 student reviews on Abroad101, and while you’ll see a few that had more difficulties than they expected and left negative reviews, I challenge you to find one student who says they wish they had just stayed home. If you find one, then feel free to stay home as well, but otherwise it’s time to consider joining the thousands of study abroad alumni in embracing this life changing opportunity!

Next week I’ll discuss why Study Abroad is the best way to experience international living, and why sooner is better than later.  To find a study abroad program that suits you please visit www.studyabroad101.com 

– Caleb House

Caleb House grew up in Northern California and has lived in the Czech Republic, Japan, India, Tanzania, France, South Korea, Germany, and Côte d’Ivoire as a student, teacher, volunteer, backpacker, researcher, and school administrator. He holds an M.A. in Modern Global History from Jacobs University Bremen and an M.S. in International Management from the Burgundy School of Business. He recently married his French soulmate in her tiny village in the north of France, and the two currently find themselves in Washington D.C. He is preparing the launch of his website, HowToGoAbroad.com, and in the meantime can be contacted on his facebook page “How To Go Abroad” or on Twitter @HowToGoAbroad.  

Sending Money Abroad: How To Cut Back On Costs

bankwireStudents, or their devoted parents, are bound to send substantial amounts of money abroad if they (or their children) decide to study in a different country. A year at a UK university would cost £12,000 (or $17,5000) per year, and a year in Australia would cost even slightly more (AU$24,000 / US $17,500), and that’s for tuition and university fees alone, not including other expenses.

If you include living costs into the equation, the total annual cost would be approximately doubled, and would amount to anywhere between $20,000 and $50,000. That means that taking even a single semester abroad would cost thousands of dollars to fund. As stated before, these are significant amounts of money that has to be transferred between countries and currencies, and most people, students and parents alike, are inexperienced with the process.

Fees On Money Wires

As overseas education is an expensive business by itself, students often do whatever is in their power to reduce costs. They apply for scholarships, turn to public transportation, use free international call providers, and try to stick to a tight budget. What they seem to disregard or ignore is the incredible amount of money being spent on the process of move funds from their home country.

When sending money abroad, 3 or more types of fees incur. The first one is the simple upfront fee of about $30 per transfer in the U.S (eq. to that in other countries). The second one is the recipient bank’s fee which could amount to 1% of the total trade volume. The third one, which is the most significant one also, is the cost of exchanging money between currencies, which is usually 2.5% or more of the entire transfer. There are additional fees that vary according to country, bank, and account type.

Tuition fees of $20,000 could easily cost an additional grand just in bank fees, and a year at Harvard could cost an additional $5,000 just in bank fees, when it is paid for from abroad. That seems fairly illogical, as these fees are nowhere near proportional to the effort and risk that bank has to partake in order to execute them.

There are specialized services for those who are seeking for cheaper alternatives: commercial foreign exchange firms. The way they work is by “mediating” between banks – you send them the money, they exchange it for their much lower rates, and send it as a wire transfer to its new destination. With a transfer of $10,000 or more you can expect 1.5% or less in total transfer costs, and bigger transfers can induce a fee of 0.7% or less (it depends on the currencies exchanged, volumes, and timing). You can view a full breakdown here.

Some of the big names in the industry include Moneycorp, World First, Travelex, FairFX, HiFX, and of course Western Union’s money transfer platform (to to be confused with its remittances cash to cash transfers through branches).

Living Expenses

Living expenses is a different story. While money transfer companies could be the most cost-effective mean of transferring funds to a student abroad, students who only go abroad to study for a single semester would have difficulties with opening a local bank account.

The second alternative is with companies that issue pre-paid currency debit cards (some of the money transfer companies like FairFX or Moneycorp, also provide that service). These pre-paid cards can be loaded with one or more of several different currencies, are reloadable, the cost of currency exchange is lower, and there are no fees on withdrawing money or paying with them abroad. It’s extremely simple to reload this card with any type of currency – the parent just has to log to the online site, input his debit or credit card details, and the card is instantly loaded.

Summary

The exchange and transfer of money abroad is an important aspect that should not be overlooked by overseas students and their parents. It is possible to save thousands of dollars in fees by sidestepping from banks and looking into alternative providers.

Guest blogger…

Alon-RajicAuthor Bio: Alon Rajic is the Managing Director of Finofin LTD which owns and operates MoneyTransferComparison.com. He loves to read and write about everything relating to business and finance.

Debit or Credit: Which Way Should Students Pay Overseas

Debit or Credit Card

In just a few months, spring semester will be over, and you’ll be on your way to your summer study abroad trip in Japan or the U.K. or Costa Rica. You’ve been preparing for months already ― researching the climate, the culture, the cuisine ― and you already feel like a travel pro.

However, if this is your first trip overseas, you might not have considered how you are going to pay for all your adventures in that foreign land. After all, even if your program pays for your lodgings and meals, you will undoubtedly want to explore on your own, and to do that, you’ll have to pay up. Experienced travelers rarely move about with more than a few bucks of cash, preferring hard, shiny plastic instead. Yet, if you only have a debt or ATM card in your pocket, you might want to consider taking out a line of credit, instead.

Debit cards are incredibly insecure, especially overseas, and traveling with one could cause all sorts of problems ― most significantly: theft. Here is a quick comparison of the different types of plastic payment to help you decide what stays and what goes.

Credit Cards Have New Security, and Debit Cards Lack the Best Tech

Last year, the major credit card companies (including Visa, MasterCard, and American Express) called for Americans to make a move away from the traditional magnetic strip and toward computer chips. Called EMV cards (for Europay, MasterCard, and Visa), these chip-embedded cards are dramatically more secure than magstrips ever were, and therefore they are more cost-effective for credit companies, card issuers, merchants, cardholders, and more. As a result, credit card companies provided issuers and merchants all sorts of incentives to adopt EMV technology ― and most of them have.

The chips contain tons of payment information, just like magstrips, but that data is heavily encrypted and difficult to reproduce on another card. Conversely, magstrips are easy to skim information from at any payment terminal, and fraudsters need only to print another magnetic strip to start spending their ill-gotten gains.

Nearly all credit cards in the country now use chips; in fact, nearly all credit cards in the world rely on EMV, since Europe and Asia adopted the tech nearly a decade ago. However, in the U.S. at least, debit cards still rely on old magstrips to convey data. Because no incentives exist to encourage banks to provide chip-embedded debit options, your debit card remains easy to steal from, especially when you travel abroad. Worse, thieves can take as much as they want, as explained next.

Credit Cards Have Automatic Limits, and Debit Cards Have No Protection

When you apply for a credit card, the issuer evaluates your credit history (which is likely lacking when you are young) to decide how much money you can be trusted with, called your credit limit. Usually, college students can get limits between $500 and $1,500, which is plenty to use on your summer study abroad trip. Fortunately, whatever your determined limit, no matter how hard you try, you cannot spend higher than that amount ― which means thieves cannot spend higher than that amount either.

Conversely, your debit card is directly linked to your checking account, which is usually linked to your savings account. A scammer who gets access to your debit card information ― through hacking, skimming, or plain-and-simple theft ― has access to all of your money. An experienced crook will drain a debit card in minutes, leaving you little time to notify your financial institution and cancel the card. Though your bank can investigate claims of unauthorized activity, it takes months to resolve; meanwhile, you are out your life savings while you are in a foreign country.

Credit Cards Provide Crazy Travel Benefits and Debit Cards Incur Crazy Fees

Finally, many credit cards give you rewards on travel-related purchases, like plane tickets or hotel rooms, so you can explore the world for less. Usually, travel rewards cards have higher interest rates than regular credit cards, but as long as you use credit responsibly ― i.e. never spend more than 15 percent of your limit and pay your total balance every month ― you should never incur unmanageable debts.

Meanwhile, debit cards tend to punish you for traveling overseas. Because it costs extra to send information internationally, banks charge transaction fees that add up fast. Additionally, every visit to an out-of-country ATM can cost as much as $10, putting your trip well over-budget. Instead of factoring in the costs of fees, you should just start building your credit with a safe, secure, satisfying credit card for your summer studies.