Congratulations, you’re studying abroad! Here are 10 essential tips for your international adventure:
1. Apply to scholarships
Applications are a pain, but scholarships will help you save money in the long run. You’ll want to splurge on restaurants and outings while you’re there, so it’s important to have some money saved up.
2. Know the language as well as you can
If you’re traveling to a foreign-language country, study the language as much as you can, especially conversational vocabulary. You’ll need to ask for directions, order at restaurants, and buy things at stores. Improving your language skills will save you some social awkwardness.
However, there’s only so much you can learn in a classroom. If you’ve only been learning the language for a few semesters, expect your language skills to improve exponentially after your time abroad, especially your accent.
2. Research social norms
Understanding social norms is just as important as knowing the language. To avoid acting like an obnoxious tourist, research social taboos and proper greetings. It’ll save you a lot of embarrassment and make you more approachable to your international classmates!
3. Plan your trip
Plan as much as you can before leaving. Research museums, hikes, restaurants, events, historic landmarks, everything you want to see. Plan out a weekly itinerary to make the most of your limited time studying abroad. Pro tip: See the landmark destinations, but also check out less touristy things that locals go to. It’ll be less crowded and more fun than you might expect.
4. Pack light
You don’t need a lot when you’re going abroad. The only non-essential I would recommend is a journal, so that you can process your experiences and re-live them later. Scan important documents like your passport and keep them somewhere safe.
5. Set goals
What are your goals? Getting better at the language? Making international friends? Setting goals will keep you focused. However, it’s also important to have realistic expectations. Even though you’re in another country, reality is still reality. You’ll probably still have bad days and annoying classmates. Realistic expectations while studying abroad will help you avoid disappointment.
6. Enjoy the food
Thanks to globalization, American junk food is everywhere! Don’t be that person who just goes to Subway or McDonald’s every day. Try new foods, even if it’s a bit outside your comfort zone. If you’re worried about spending money 1.) You are here to have fun, 2.) Every country has affordable street food.
7. Don’t just hang out with other Americans
How can you learn about the culture if you don’t talk to its people? If you can, get a host family. It will greatly improve your linguistic and cultural fluency. You didn’t go abroad just to hang out with other Americans. Push yourself to chat with locals, even if it isn’t in your native language. They’ll have great advice on what to do and probably be more interesting than your American classmates.
8. Explore on your own
If you feel safe, explore on your own. Just walking around the city is one of the simplest pleasures of studying abroad. (Just make sure your phone is charged so you can boot up directions if you need to).
9. Take time to recharge
Studying abroad can take a lot out of you. You’re constantly pushing yourself to interact with new things and you might be having trouble with the culture shock. It’s okay to take an afternoon to yourself. Hang out at a park, doodle, or even nap in your room. Constantly worrying about missing out dampens the fun of going abroad.
10. Don’t forget to actually study
You learn a lot from just being in another country, but unfortunately your grades are still important. So get some study buddies and head to a café!