20 Oct 2023 | Maximizing Your Study Abroad Benefits: The Key Approach
How to Have a Study Abroad Experience
Studying abroad is a transformative journey that opens doors to new cultures, perspectives, and opportunities. To make the most of this adventure, it's essential to approach it strategically. In this comprehensive guide, we'll walk you through the key steps to maximize your study abroad experience.
You can gain as much knowledge from a few experiences as you can from an extended stay abroad. However, time tends to slip away quickly, and before you know it, those weeks or months are over.
Most of your time abroad using these strategies
Thoroughly Prepare Before Departure: Don't leave all the necessary paperwork and arrangements until the last minute, as it can lead to unnecessary stress. Before you embark on your journey, have detailed discussions with your study advisor, teacher, or past students to understand what's expected of you. Proper preparation includes securing travel insurance, financial planning, arranging accommodation with a host family, booking airport transfers, and familiarizing yourself with the local weather.
Establish Clear Goals: Whether your objective is to become fluent in a new language, immerse yourself in a specific industry, or work toward your dream degree, remember that the key word in "study abroad" is "study." While you're sure to have an amazing time, it's crucial to recognize that your program presents an opportunity to acquire valuable skills for your future career.
Immerse Yourself in Local Culture: Successful international students make an effort to learn the local language and absorb information about the destination's culture before departure. Explore books, movies, cuisine, and music that originate from the region. Familiarize yourself with prominent figures in the country, such as writers, musicians, athletes, and actors, and stay updated with local news. This way, you'll already feel a connection to your new home and have plenty of conversation topics when meeting new people.
Approach Everything with an Open Mind: Embrace the advice often given—maintain an open mind. Avoid flying to your temporary destination with preconceived stereotypes. Instead, keep an open, receptive attitude, and embrace the local culture. You'll discover that many of your assumptions about life abroad are incorrect. Try not to constantly think, "In my country, we do things differently," but instead, go with the flow.
Learn from Locals: When you find yourself unsure of how to handle a situation, look to the locals for guidance. After your arrival, seek insights from your host family or teachers regarding cultural customs, traditions, and unspoken rules, and continue doing so throughout your stay.
Embrace New Experiences: Even if your initial purpose is to study Spanish in Barcelona or improve your English in San Diego, be open to additional experiences. Friends might invite you to try salsa dancing, attend a cooking class, or explore a renowned nature park. By saying "yes" to new experiences, you'll return home with a wealth of unexpected skills.
Acknowledge and Manage Homesickness: Ignoring or burying your homesickness can exacerbate those feelings. Take steps to prevent homesickness by maintaining regular contact with your family and friends through calls, emails, chats, or by keeping a blog about your experiences. However, don't forget to immerse yourself in your new friendships and surroundings, as there's much to discover. Staying engaged is an effective way to cope with homesickness. Additionally, remember that homesickness is often temporary, and you might even develop a sense of longing for your foreign home after the program ends.
Manage Your Finances Wisely: Despite the allure of purchasing attractive gadgets, dining out, and collecting souvenirs, particularly at the start of your journey, resist the urge to spend all your money. Keep in mind that you'll be abroad for an extended period, and your finances need to last. Stick to your budget by identifying where locals shop and eat. Seek advice from teachers or your host family to understand typical pricing, helping you avoid overpaying. Furthermore, consider finding a part-time job if your visa permits, as this not only boosts your budget but also accelerates your language skills.
Expand Your Social Circle: Instead of immediately gravitating towards fellow international students after classes, consider building friendships with local individuals as well. Cultivating a friendship with a local can provide you with a deeper understanding of the culture and potentially open doors to special events, sports competitions, and unique festivals.
Volunteer or Intern in the Community
Giving back to the community you're temporarily calling home can be incredibly rewarding. Look for opportunities to volunteer or intern, as this not only benefits the local population but also broadens your perspective.
While there may be moments of busyness, homesickness, or a lack of motivation during your time abroad, don't lose sight of your original purpose for going overseas. It may seem like a cliché, but studying abroad represents a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If you fully immerse yourself in your program now, the benefits can extend for years to come.
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