How to Make the Most of Your Study Abroad Experience

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Most likely you are very excited about the prospect of going overseas to discover new frontiers and experience new cultures. Studying abroad is an experience that will broaden horizons across all areas of your life, from your educational and career path to discovering new people, places and things. You may be nervous about studying abroad because you will be stepping outside your comfort zone, but that’s only natural.

To make sure you make the most of your time abroad, we have some suggested tips:

  1. Don’t forget to learn something. It’s called “study abroad” for a reason, which is that you will be spending half of your time either in class, or learning about the local culture through educational trips to museums and other historical sites. Don’t forget how fortunate you are to get first-hand knowledge about a culture that fascinates you.
    • Your class, internship or service learning program is your number one priority. Take the time to pay attention, take notes, study, just as you would do back home.
    • Take the time to talk to your professors or supervisors. They are experts in the area you are studying and are real representatives of the local culture, which can teach you a lot.
    • Be alert during your cultural outings and explore as much as possible.
    • When you’re hanging out with locals — and hopefully you are — use them as an opportunity to learn something about the attitude and perspectives of the local culture.
  1. Immerse yourself in the local culture and seize every opportunity you have to try something new and have a new experience.
    • If you’re in a country where a foreign language is spoken, try to speak and read the language as much as possible.
    • Enjoy the culinary delights of a new country. You will probably crave your favourite foods from home, but try to eat as much local food as possible.
    • Understand the local customs. If you’re in a country where a siesta is customary, then take one.
    • Enjoy the local music and dance culture. Go to a show, concert, or local festival.
    • Go to as many museums and other cultural venues as possible. Learn everything you can about the country and even take notes or journal while you are abroad.
  1. Choose the right friends. A big part of having the perfect study abroad experience is to become friends with a diverse group of people. The people you hang out with can make or break your entire trip, so choose your friends carefully. Here’s what you can do:
    • Become friendly with people from your study abroad program so you can stay grounded, participate in fun activities, and avoid loneliness.
    • Focus on finding friends who are born or from in your host country. You may be shy about meeting new people or getting past a language barrier, but people from foreign countries are often friendly and will be excited by having a visitor amongst them.
    • If you’re living in a home-stay, then take advantage of your host family. You can learn a lot about the culture from them. If they invite you to join them in events outside the home, don’t miss the opportunity.
  1. Take the opportunity to travel. If you’re studying abroad, then there’s a good chance that you’re living not far from many fantastic destinations. A ticket to these countries is much cheaper than it will be from home, so you should make a point of seizing the opportunity to visit a few places you have never been.
    • Travel within the country where you’re studying abroad. This will give you an opportunity to understand the customs of the different regions of the country. This will also help you appreciate the art, history, or literature classes you may have taken about your chosen country.
    • Plan a few trips to visit other foreign countries. Ideally, you can visit cities where your friends are studying, so they can act as your tour guides, or ask your program leaders for help and they can connect you.
    • Try to travel in groups wherever you go. Not only will it make traveling more fun, but it will be safer, too.
    • If you do travel out of the country, make copies of all your documents and always let your friends and study abroad program leaders or administrators know about it in advance.

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