Studying abroad is one of the most exciting and nerve-wracking things that college students take part in. At University of Delaware, many students study abroad, both during the semester and during winter session. It’s an opportunity to meet new people, learn about new cultures, and experience life in parts of the world. Most, if not all, students who have studied abroad before will tell you that it is a life-changing experience. That being said, there are always things we learn during our time abroad that we wish we had known before we left.
1. Do What You Can To Avoid Getting Sick
My biggest concern when I studied abroad was catching my flight and having my luggage when I arrived. What I didn’t consider, however, was that I would be on a plane for nine hours with strangers, only to arrive in a country with healthcare practices I was unfamiliar. Flying always puts people at risk of getting sick but being sick so far from home can really put a damper on your experience. Take whatever precautions you can before departing to ensure that even if you do get sick while you’re there, you will know what to do or who to talk to.
2. Respecting Other Cultures is Extremely Important
This is especially important when it comes to visiting historic sites or places with religious significance. Customs vary from country to country, so it can be difficult to adjust to a new culture if you’re unsure of how to be respectful in certain situations. You might find yourself wondering if the things you are doing are offensive or impolite in some way, which is okay! Ask professors from UD as well as any blog or website you can find that has relevant information regarding the behaviors and language that are appropriate in that country.
3. Manners Are Different in Every Country
If you go to Italy, and someone walks into you and doesn’t say “sorry,” don’t assume they are just being rude. What is considered standard in the United States may not be the same in other countries. Wherever you decide to go, just make sure you keep an open mind when it comes to the way people behave toward one another so that you don’t feel uncomfortable. And do what you can to avoid offending people.
4. You Might Get Homesick
Most people assume because they will be embarking on an exciting adventure they won’t have time to miss home. For some students, this may be true, but for students who will be abroad for an entire semester or for those who don’t travel often, they may find themselves missing the comfort of their home, and that’s okay! This is normal, but don’t let it interfere with your experience. Call your family and friends whenever you need to, but make sure you are doing enough on your adventures to have stories to tell them when you get back!
5. Take pictures, but Don’t Forget to Experience Things
No matter what country you are traveling to, there is always that urge to capture every moment on your phone or camera. We bring our phones inside museums, on tours of historic places, and in restaurants, but these are all things that won’t be the same in the pictures. You have to take the time to enjoy those tours and the food you’re eating because your experience goes beyond what’s in your camera roll. Pay attention to all of your surroundings and take in those moments because studying abroad is a rare opportunity for most people, and you may never find yourself in that exact place again.
6. You’ll Still Be Going to School
Most of our preparation for study abroad involves clothes, travel converters, and spending money, but it’s important to keep in mind that you’ll still be taking classes. Especially for those going abroad during the winter session, there is a lot of learning crammed into four weeks, and it’s not always light work. You will have assignments to complete, so try to maintain a balance of learning in class and exploring the country you’re living in. After all, tuition is part of the cost.
7. You Will Meet People Who Will Become Your Closest Friends
Study abroad is a great opportunity to meet new people and/or become close with people you already know. Traveling together creates a different kind of bond between friends, which will make your experience even more exciting. The people you meet abroad, whether they are from your school/program or from the country itself, can become your people for life. Even if you’re only abroad for winter session, you will find people you can’t imagine living without.
8. Host Families Can be A Great Addition to Your Trip
Many students cringe at the thought of living in a home with strangers for a month or a semester, but it can be a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself even further in the culture. It sounds scary to live with people who have a different native language than you or live a different lifestyle, but it can be an opportunity to learn about that country firsthand. You can experience life the way that they do, and when it’s all over you might even find yourself emailing them once in a while to say hi!
9. Do Your Best to Avoid Risky Situations
We shrug it off when our parents tell us a hundred times to be careful, but this is not something to disregard. Living somewhere totally new can be dangerous, especially if you are unfamiliar with your surroundings. Keep your head up when you walk and don’t put yourself in situations that might be risky because your safety is most important while you’re abroad.’
10. You Will Never be the Same
No matter where you go or for how long, studying abroad will change you. You will feel differently about home and about the world in general, but in the best way! Becoming more at home with different countries and their languages and cultures will expand your horizons and teach you more than you would learn in ten years of foreign language courses. It may make you want to see more of the world or maybe it will make you appreciate what you have at home a little bit more, but either way, it will change your life.