You have packed your bags, you found your passport, and you are about to leave to study abroad. It’s an exciting time from the time you receive your acceptance letter to when you arrive at the airport. In the midst of all this excitement, it’s important to remember these things before you leave for your semester abroad.
1. It’s called STUDY abroad
Sorry to sound like your mom, but this one is pretty self-explanatory since it’s in the name. Your study abroad trip revolves around attending a university where you are furthering the studies that you have already started at your home university. As much as you might want to travel every weekend, it’s crucial that you make time for classes, homework, and projects just like you normally would. You might find that your professors are lax on attendance, like even laxer than American professors. Regardless, everything you miss will be your responsibility. It’s better to be safe and just attend every class if you are able. The classes you are taking are equally as valuable as the ones you are taking at home, so it’s important to take them seriously.
2. Balance is important
Speaking of classes, they are definitely an important aspect of study abroad. At the same time, they are not the only thing on your plate especially if this is your first time outside of your home country and have a burning sense of adventure. With that said, find a way to balance your schoolwork with taking trips or going out with your newfound friends. Depending on your professor and the classes you are taking, you might be assigned projects that will be due at the end of the semester. This gives you the advantage since you can plan ahead so you have time to devote to your assignments and take trips guilt-free. When you are taking a trip, there’s nothing worse than having the lingering feeling that you still have work to do when you get back.
3. Pack light
If you know you are going to do some shopping while you are abroad, it’s best not to pack your entire wardrobe beforehand. Packing light will save you from the stress of potentially paying extra for luggage or going over the weight limits at the airport. Pack the essentials but leave some room for anything you likely will buy whether it be clothes or souvenirs. It might be a difficult decision to make, but pack one pair of shoes, pants and a coat or light jacket. This gives you the freedom to buy more clothes while you are abroad. This gives you the chance to have an entirely new wardrobe by the time you get back! If you’re still worried about fitting everything in your luggage, you can always wear the clothes at the airport instead of packing them. It might be uncomfortable to wear so many layers, but it’s only temporary and worth it for the chance to shop in a new country.
4. Make time for people back home
Having the chance to study abroad is not only an exciting time for you but also for your family. The time before you leave can be a period of adjustment for them and understandably so. You might be feeling the excitement, but they could be feeling more nerves especially if you are traveling alone. Communication about these feelings is important before you leave since they are valid to have. It might take some extra reassurance, but both of you are going to be fine. Set aside a specified time to talk on the phone or video chat. This is important so they can actually see you and hear your voice which is incredibly valuable. Let them know how things are, what’s different, classes just like you were in college back home. The same applies to friends since they are likely to be excited about your study abroad experience. Time differences might vary so you might be talking to them as they start the day while you are about to have dinner. Either way, keep up the communication to ward off homesickness and just to keep that connection with home.
5. It’s okay to be homesick
Studying abroad might give you a chance to finally visit your dream country. You might have an image in your head of what it will be like from doing research and looking up places to visit. Despite all this planning and anticipation, you might still miss home and that is totally okay. Homesickness is a normal part of the process and can take some time to get over. Regardless of whether you just arrived or one month later, it just might hit you how much you miss your loved ones, hometown, or school. If you do end up feeling homesick at any point, it’s important that you acknowledge it and allow yourself to feel that way. Take some time away from everything if you need to and do some self-care however you see fit. This is where communication comes in that was mentioned previously. Call a friend or family member just to talk. It doesn’t have to be formal or deep, just to talk about your days. This helps both of you since you are keeping the connection alive while you are away from home.
6. Differences between cultures
Part of the point of studying abroad is to immerse yourself in a culture that will most likely be different than the one you are used to. Whether it’s on your own or for a class, it would be helpful to do research not only the country you are going to but the region you are going to as well. The more specific, the better. This will help you get a sense of what cultural values are considered important as well as other things like geography, dialects, slang, etc. Since you are the one that is visiting, do your best to assimilate to the culture. You might even find some similarities!
7. Create your own experience
Everyone experiences studying abroad differently, so there is no one way to do it. With that said, don’t spend so much time worrying about what your time abroad “should” be like. You might end up making an entirely new group of friends or stick with people you know from your home university. You might visit somewhere new every weekend or travel sparingly. Whatever the case, make the experience your own. With all this said, make sure you pack all that you need and get ready for an experience you won’t forget.