Studying abroad is one of the most exciting and educational experiences you can have. Not only do you get the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture, and learn to speak another language, you also up your employment potential. So here are ten tips that’ll help you get the most out of your time studying abroad.
Learn the language basics before you go
Living and studying in a foreign country is the best way to become fluent in a language. But you’ll give yourself a head start if you make sure you’ve got a good grasp of the language before you go. It’ll help you to meet people and make friends as soon as you arrive. And it’ll make sure you hit the ground running when it comes to your classes.
Pre-plan your credits
Some students take their whole degrees in a foreign country. Some go for a full year. They’re the lucky ones. For most American’s studying abroad you’ll only be away for a single semester. But this can still cause concern about achieving credits and graduating on time. Just make sure you put in for the extra work before you go – that way you’ll be able to enjoy your time abroad without worrying about setting back your graduation date.
A lot of students think studying abroad isn’t affordable. But with the range of scholarships and student discounts available, money doesn’t have to be an issue. Other ways to be savvy about budgeting are to open a local bank account (this saves you paying huge transaction fees every time you need some cash) and considering a part time job. If you have a basic grasp of the language, working in a foreign country is fun – it’s a perfect way to make friends and to become fluent.
Research your trip
It’s a good idea to research your destination so you know what to expect when you arrive. But once you get there don’t be married to your guidebook. The best advice you’ll get about living locally is from the locals. That way you’ll be sure to find out about the best places to hang out, the greatest cheap restaurants, and the must see sites.
Live with locals
Most young people studying abroad find themselves hanging out with other Americans. Because when you’re in a foreign country it can make things easier to be part of an ex-pat community. But this way you’ll never get the full experience of the place you’re living in. And you may find yourself never speaking the language. So try to organize an on-campus room-share with a local student. Or see if you can get accommodation with a local family. This way you’ll learn more about the people, while getting the chance to practice their language.
Studying in a foreign country isn’t just about having fun. It also increases your job prospects. So choose a country where the language you learn, and the cultural education you receive will be of use in your prospective industry. Or even pick a country where you can see yourself working at a future time. You never know what opportunities might come up while you’re there.
Get out there
Whether you join a club or team, get a part time job or just go to a lot of parties, it’s important to recognize that socializing with the locals is a great way to integrate yourself into a foreign country. You’ll make new friends, get the opportunity to practice the language, and you may even get some good networking under your belt.
Represent the U.S.
Painful as it is to admit, American’s don’t always have the best reputation abroad. But you can help to change that. By taking the time to learn the language and interact with the locals you can show the foreign people you meet how great American’s really are. One key to this is to find out about local customs and etiquettes – being sensitive to a different culture’s traditions is the best way to make a good impression.
Traveling is the way to get to know a country. And if you’re studying somewhere like Europe you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to country hop by train and bus. As a student there are loads of discounts available – in fact the more you travel, the cheaper it gets. So don’t miss this opportunity to see as much as you possibly can in the time that you’ve got. It’s the best education you’ll ever have, not to mention the most fun. Which leads us to our final tip…
Living and studying in a foreign country is a once in a lifetime opportunity. And education isn’t all about the classroom. So get out there and have fun. It’s the best way to make the most of your time abroad.