For many young people, being given a chance to study abroad is a life-changing opportunity. Immersion in a new culture and language opens the mind to new possibilities and ways of thinking. It’s also an excellent way to meet different people, create friendships, and network contacts that follow them beyond school. But it’s important to recognize that moving to a new place, especially a new country, can be overwhelming, so knowing how to best benefit from studying in another country is vital.
Before leaving, remind yourself that this isn’t a two-week beach holiday where sitting on the beach all day is enough of a plan. You’re heading away for a sizeable amount of time, intending to experience a new way of life while learning. The easiest way to do both these things is to arrive at a set of open-minded goals that encourage you to engage with the experience truly. Research the region you’re staying in, what that area offers, and what excursions are offered to other regions as part of your program.
Embracing experiences beyond the classroom enrich the learning experience and give a well-rounded taste of life in your host country.
Thinking about health insurance may seem irrelevant when you’re setting off to study abroad, but the reality is it’s crucial. Nothing puts a stop to the best-laid educational goals like sickness, and this is doubly so if you fall sick while living abroad. Students from America who have insurance for U.S. expats know that if they unexpectedly fall ill or are injured, they can get the necessary treatment and return to their studies. Those without cover have the stress of a large medical bill and even the possibility of abandoning their course to return home.
Orientation is usually your first chance to meet the other students in your course who you’ll spend a lot of time with. Joining in with course orientation activities is a safe place to begin pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and forge new relationships. Now’s the time to take on board the advice of professionals and those who’ve lived the experience and for you to ask questions. The better prepared you are from the start, the more headspace you’ll have to immerse yourself in and enjoy your time away fully.
Push Your Boundaries
Having come all this way, sticking to comfortable, familiar things will ultimately leave you feeling regret. Whether trying new foods or doing an activity, you would shy away from at home, stretching your boundaries is essential to maximizing your study abroad experience. After all, you’ve made it to another country; why stop exploring at the arrivals lounge?
While engaging with the culture and way of life is an important element of studying abroad, the main reason for being there is to learn. As such, it’s essential to focus on your studies throughout. Regardless of the subject you’re studying, there are resources and people only available to you while you’re there. You want to return home knowing you made full use of those resources and learning opportunities and are significantly more knowledgeable as a result.
Furthermore, studying another language in another country can be a valuable way to immerse yourself in the language and culture. For example, if you learn German or Greek while studying in Germany or Greece, you can gain a deeper understanding of the language and connect with locals in a meaningful way.
Set Aside Expectations
Setting aside expectations and keeping an open mind about how things will be when you live in your host country will make the transition easier. It’s easy to build a picture of how you think another place will be, especially when media consumption exposes us to stereotypes. The reality is once you’re living and studying somewhere, many things will be the same as you’re already used to at home. The things that are different are often surprising, but without preconceived notions, you’ll better come to understand and embrace them.
The other important reason to set aside your expectations is understanding and accepting not everything will be a good experience. Sometimes you’ll have a negative experience or failure. Acknowledging that these things will happen and learning from mistakes will help you move past them and stay in a happy frame of mind.
Document The Experience
Time spent studying abroad flies by so fast it takes a lot of work to keep up with events. Documenting your time away in the form of a blog or journal helps to keep track of everything.
During a rough spell, you can look back, see all the good times you’ve had, and work through the tough times. You’ll also see how much you’ve grown and developed during your time away, which is valuable information to have going forwards.
Studying abroad in another country is a beautiful experience that you shouldn’t miss if given a chance. With these tips under your belt, you’ll be in the best position to fully benefit from your time away, whether it be three weeks or a year.