This is a topic that I am pretty passionate about. I’m actually somewhat qualified to talk about it for two reasons: Firstly, I am studying abroad in Massachusetts at this very moment, and secondly, I met my boyfriend while he was having an incredible study abroad experience at my school in England. While both he and I have truly valued studying abroad, both of us couldn’t help but notice a few people who didn’t seem like they were getting as much out of the experience. When I was in England, I met Americans who hardly left their dorm rooms. Here in Massachusetts, I see a lot of fellow Brits who refuse to socialise outside of the group of people they know from home. I feel like there are a few things that everyone considering studying abroad should try to make the most of their time – including myself, I’ve really had to push myself out of my comfort zone at times. So, here are a few steps that will guarantee your experience is as awesome as it can be!
1. Make a list of exactly what you want to get out of studying abroad. Some people travel to see the sights, others want to experience different styles of learning, whatever it is, you need to work out why you’re studying abroad and what you want to have done by the end of it. If you go to England specifically to visit famous landmarks, schedule weekends when you can go. If you’re in a country for the partying, push yourself and make sure you do it! People study abroad for a multitude of personal reasons, and it’s up to you to make sure you gain exactly what you want from the experience.
2. Talk to people. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I see people studying abroad who just stay in their room and only interact with other people from their home country. If you’re studying abroad, you’ve got to get to know people outside of your own culture. Otherwise, what’s the point? Swallow your nerves and just speak to everyone. Trust me, the second you say you’re from a different country people will be incredibly friendly and willing to chat.
3. Accept differences. Look, if you’re living in a different country for a few months, you’re going to experience some things that are different. Language, manners, fashion, there’s going to be some stuff you’re not used to. But rather than being scared of differences, or resenting a place because it’s not like home, welcome every new thing you face. Laugh at communication problems, learn about different cultures, try all the crazy food you’d never normally have. Treat every difference as something wonderful and your entire experience will be so much better.
4. Try everything. If you want to really experience life in another country, just try everything local people suggest. Have food that you don’t even know how to pronounce. Who knows, you could find something you really like.
5. Don’t forget the studying part. I know, studying abroad can feel like a semester-long vacation. But seriously, keep up with the work, you’ll really regret it if one semester of fun ruins your GPA. Plus, it can be really fun to experience how things are taught in another country! Focus in class and appreciate the fact that this is a really special opportunity that not everyone is lucky enough to have.
6. Don’t spend all of your money. Just don’t. It’s so easy to forget your careful budgeting when you’re in another country, and while you’re expected to spend a little more money than usual, don’t blow through all your savings just for a few months of fun. You can still have a great experience on a budget, and you won’t hate yourself for it afterwards. Yay!
7. Don’t Panic. I get it, it can be really scary being in a country where you don’t know anyone. But remember your first day of college when you were worried about the same thing? Just remind yourself that everything will be okay and that as long as you just embrace a different location, you’ll have an incredible semester.
Congratulations to anyone who’s lucky enough to study abroad, and believe me, you’ll have an amazing experience. Good luck!
[Lead Image via umass.edu]