Studying abroad is a highlight in any student’s academic career. For many, it’s a chance to really see the world through a different country’s perspective, not just the language, but the customs, cuisine, and culture. While students may count down the days in anticipation before venturing abroad, there is considerable preparation that should be taken into account before doing so. Take a look at some of Manhattan Review’s top tips on what to expect when you’re expecting a semester overseas.
Learn the language.
For many students studying abroad, this should be fairly evident. Immersion in not only a new culture, but an entirely new language is a large aspect of the whole experience. While it may not be realistic to speak, read, and write fluently in a whole new language, a little can go a long way. Learning simple phrases, such as “please” and “thank you” mean a lot to people of all nationalities and origins. Making an effort shows respect, but also a willingness to ingratiate yourself to others. Luckily, you don’t have to enroll in an expensive foreign language class to do this since nowadays there are countless apps, podcasts, and free resources to help you learn the basics of another language.
Don’t plan every single weekend in advance.
While it may be tempting to want to cram every single weekend with lots of travel plans, it’s a smart idea to leave some weekends open for sporadic and unplanned trips. Conversely, there may be weekends you don’t feel like going anywhere and want to stay local. You never know what opportunities for travel will come up once you arrive to your new country, so keep an open mind and try not to schedule every single second!
Stay on top of your schoolwork.
When immersed in another culture with all its copious offerings, it’s easy to neglect schoolwork. After all, most study abroad programs also have a strong academic component involving a full-time curriculum and class offerings. Practice diligence and discipline in getting your homework in on time and remember you can make use of long train or plane rides by studying for upcoming tests.
Keep a blog or journal.
More than likely, you will be going to so many different countries and cities that you won’t remember exactly where all you’ve been and what you’ve experienced. Keeping a blog or hard copy journal allows you to store these precious memories so you’re not hard-pressed to remember them later on. Studying abroad is a timeless experience and keeping track of your journey and subsequent destinations will allow you to re-experience it for years to come.
Bring several different ways to pay.
It’s advised to have a credit/debit card with a chip when you travel overseas, which makes extracting money from ATMs much safer and easier. Some restaurants and street vendors might not take cash, depending on the country, so having some cash on-hand at all times is also highly advisable. Additionally, having a credit card to use for emergencies is always a good idea, as you never know when plans might go awry and you will need a last-minute hotel room or train ticket.
Keep the date of your plane ride home flexible.
More often than not, students abroad often want to extend their stay and not return home once the program is complete. To save yourself money from having to rebook a ticket, it might be a good idea to purchase a flexible airplane fare on your return home or wait until halfway through your stay to determine when you would like to go back. Some students feel they can get an extra week or two of travel in after the completion of their classes, stretching their study abroad experience for as long as they can!
In the end, studying abroad is a seminal moment in students’ lives and not to be overlooked or underplayed. Taking proper precautions and measures to ensure your time overseas lives up to its full potential is worth it. Don’t take it from Manhattan Review India, but take it from the countless students who have treasured their overseas experience as a true highlight of their lives.