How to Have a Great Experience When Studying Abroad
Guidelines and Goals for a Successful Study Abroad Experience
By Alex Petryck, Wisconsin-Madison University
You have packed your bags already and are now going to say goodbye to your friends and family members with the assurance that you’re going to meet them again in a semester’s time. Well, that’s not all that you need to take care of when spending a semester abroad — you need to consider many other things as well to have the most exciting and gripping experience of your college life.
Studying abroad, even for a semester, is quite thrilling, but at the same time, it’s challenging as well – it usually takes some time to get familiar with new climatic and cultural changes you’re going to witness in your ‘home away from home’. And above all, language barrier is going to put you in some trouble. To have a hassle-free time, you should pay attention to the following suggestions.
Always Know Your Goals
If you’re going abroad for your semester, you should ensure that you always set specific goals. It is important because it will help you bring some of those experiences back to your home country. It doesn’t really matter if you want to pack for the long-term or you simply want to master the art of cooking a traditional dish, the lessons will always stay with you even when you’re back home. Make sure you have an idea in mind about how you want to learn from these daily experiences, and your stay abroad will become a lot more meaningful and exciting.
Make New Friends
You will find it difficult to learn about the new culture unless you have someone to teach you the do’s and don’ts of living in that country. That’s exactly the reason why you will have to try actively to make new friends. Even if you manage to make one local friend, it will go a long way in figuring the best way to live abroad. For this, you may consider joining a community service group, club, or even a sports league – simply going out of your way to talk to some local students will also help a lot. All this will lend a helping hand in forming a network of friends.
Choose Your Classes Sensibly
Always keep in mind that you’re on a different land to study and to explore. Therefore, it’s important to choose your classes with care. You may want to sign up for some of those classes that help you explore the local culture – these classes may arrange field trips under the supervision of your professors. In this way, you will get to explore areas that you would never get a chance to see on your own.
Know about Your Host Family
Sometimes, you have to live with a host family, and this actually adds to your responsibilities. If you live on your own, you don’t have to worry about living according to their specific lifestyle. However, living with a host family can be an enriching experience and explains you how to live in that specific country. Still, it’s a good idea to talk to them and ask them to explain specific rules and customs. This will tell you how your host family wants you to live with them. Once you know their expectations, be sure to give your best to live according to the new way of life.
Wait Before You Travel
It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be traveling once you have entered a new country. To keep you save, it is a good idea to wait for a few weeks and get to know the local rules and traditions before you plan to travel around. During this time, you may want to learn more about your host family or find a few friends in the neighborhood.
Break the Language Barrier
To learn the language, many students wait for their universities to arrange conversation sessions, community service trips and sports leagues. However, this is not always the case, and that’s when you should take the initiative and make a request, so your university may arrange an event or session with local students. Alternatively, you may get in touch with your language professors and ask them to guide you in the right direction.
Find a Job or an Internship
You can always find an internship or a job in your new home country. If English is your first language, the easiest job will be to offer your essay writing services as an English teacher in a place where English is taught as a second language. You can visit the International student center in your school to find different employment opportunities.
Know How to Spend
For new residents, it is always a challenge to identify the best places to eat or shop. Ask locals for help – they will tell you to avoid some expensive tourist traps. You may also keep an eye open for daily discount deals and special offers, which you can find by using the Internet.
Learn to Stay Out of Trouble
This is important for those who are spending a semester abroad. Always take your time to research and find the best time to go out. Avoid walking alone during the late hours, and be sure of which areas are safe and which aren’t.
Learn to Fight Homesickness
It’s obvious to feel homesick soon after entering another country. To keep things under control, try to keep in touch with your friends and family back home – write letters, use Skype or other chat messengers, and make phone calls whenever possible.