Have you made the decision to study abroad or are you thinking about it? Studying abroad can be one of the most amazing experiences any student can have. Not only are you attending a different school, but you are going to get immersed in an entirely different culture than what you are used to. You make new friends from all over the world, and gain a great deal of knowledge about international politics, food, and daily life.
Before you embark on your trip, here are a few things that you should know about your school and country of choice.
1. Learn about the host country.
Before you depart on your trip, read as much as possible about the country where you plan to reside. Libraries, bookstores, and tourist bureaus are good resources to find out more information about the country. Learn about the nation’s culture, customs, people, and history. Knowing as much as possible about the country before you leave will help lower the culture shock once you arrive in the host country.
2. Talk to other students who have studied abroad.
These students will give you information that you can’t get from a guidebook. They can give you advice on what to pack, how to make friends, and the cheapest way to call home. If you don’t know anyone who has studied abroad, ask your advisor for names and contact information of students who have studied abroad.
3. Find out the costs of studying abroad.
Besides tuition there are daily living expenses which are often overlooked. Know the conversion rate for currency, have an idea of local bus, train, and air fares, and find out if you are going to have student meal plan. This will make budgeting for travel and food much easier. Don’t forget to budget for nights out, a cell phone (if needed), and make sure to have an emergency fund so you can get quick money if needed. Don’t worry, traveling within a country can be fairly cheap, and there are great deals on airline tickets within Europe.
4. Have all the documentation needed.
Make sure your passport is up to date if you are considering studying abroad and see if you will need a student visa. Students from the United States studying in Ireland, for example, do not need visas.
5. Know where you’ll be living.
Some schools provide kitchenware, and some do not. Are you living in dorms, an apartment, or a house? Will you have to provide your own bed sheets and pillow? This is important to know so you can budget and pack accordingly. Many times there are inexpensive options for bedding around universities, and some schools partner with companies to offer convenient options for study abroad students.
6. Find out what the climate is like.
Try and decide ahead of time how much traveling or backpacking you will be doing, because some types of clothing are easier to pack and keep clean than others. Ask yourself, how much do I really wear this top, or how versatile are these shoes?
7. Respect the host country.
Once you are in the host country, you need to respect that nation’s customs, manners, rules, and laws. Various countries have certain dress codes and manners. You should abide by these dress codes and manners as much as possible while studying there. Furthermore, it is important to learn about the local laws abroad and obey them. While in a foreign country, remember that you are subject to its laws.
8. Make friends with locals.
In order to better understand cultural differences, you should make friends with the locals of your host country. They can share their country and family customs with you as well as show you certain aspects of the country that you may not find on your own (e.g. hangouts, museums, festivals).
9. Keep in touch with family and friends.
Keeping in touch with friends and family will allow you to share your adventures while they are happening. It should also help to alleviate homesickness. Keep in touch by email, phone, and letters.
10. Keep a journal while you’re abroad.
Keeping a journal will allow you to record your adventures so you won’t forget your experience of studying abroad. Write about places you see, people you meet, and customs you learn so you can give an accurate account of your experience when you return home to your family and friends.
11. And at last: Take pictures!
Taking pictures of your study abroad experience will give you lasting memories and visuals to go with your stories.
Studying abroad provides memories that will never be forgotten. Try to keep these tips in mind so you will have an enjoyable experience.