Congratulations! You’ve decided to expand your horizons and study in a different country. You’re ready to immerse yourself in a new culture, learn (non)traditional customs, speak a different language, and understand a totally new way of life. Not only is this an opportunity for you to become a world traveler, this is also a time for you to step outside of your comfort zone and experience another part of the world. But, before you embark on your international education, consider these tips — and get the most benefits of studying abroad.
You probably already know that studying abroad requires more than a few changes of clothes, some shoes, and your passport. But are you aware of everything that you’ll actually need for your term overseas?
- What should you do in case of an emergency?
- How do you contact the nearest American embassy?
- Will you need vaccinations before you leave?
- How are you going to stay in touch with your friends and family?
Although many of the above answers will be determined by your destination, you should have a set plan, just in case. A great place to get information is the U.S. Department of State. Here you can find out about:
- Travel documents
- Traveling smart
- Traveling with insurance
The website even offers checklists to make sure that all of your affairs are in order.
Okay, so you are all ready to go. You have mapped out routes to get to your school, a hospital, and the nearest American embassy, all of your travel documents are in order, and you plan to Skype with your family and friends each Monday evening at 8pm EST — Skype offers some pretty cheap international plans.
Now it’s time for some fun preparation:
- Read up on your destination and make a list of places you want to visit while you are there, and remember to ask about student discounts
- Practice the language so you can, at the very least, ask for directions or order a coffee when you arrive
- Get familiar with local customs, politics, and news
- Try some international fare from a local restaurant — American food choices may be scarce
- Get a good camera, a charger, and some memory cards. You may even want to consider getting a Flickr or Shutterfly account so you can share your photos while away
To make sure you get the most of out of your study abroad experience, check out GearFire‘s article, “10 Study Abroad Tips and Suggestions,” written by whit360 and based on the writer’s own experiences.
Well, it looks like you are finally ready to go. Remember that this may be the one and only time you get this opportunity, so make the most of it. There may be other students you know studying abroad, but if you limit yourself to interactions with these people, then you may really miss out on all this experience has to offer.
Instead, step outside of your comfort zone and get involved in your new surroundings. You could:
- Try to communicate in a different language for most of the day, every day
- Get involved: Find a local sports team and join it or volunteer at a nearby church
- Don some new threads
- Pay attention to local customs and cultures, and try your best to adapt!
Now, pack your bags and say your goodbyes and get ready to have one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. By the way, did you also know that studying abroad looks great on a resume? Employers find this a pretty invaluable skill; just one more reason to get ready, get set, and GO!