Studying abroad is a rite of passage for many college students. However, it can be an anxious time, as one hopes to experience new cultures and meet new people while still keeping up the grades they need to graduate. In order to make the most of your study abroad experience, you’ve got to take chances and be fearless. Here is how you can make the most of your time abroad.
1. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Whether you choose to study abroad with a school program or go independently, it’s important to try new things and meet new people. You don’t want to just go to class and return to your apartment every night. Take advantage of each opportunity that comes your way, and make sure you get out of the “bubble” you may have been living in at home. Studying abroad is a chance to put yourself out there, so take it. Try new foods, visit different museums each week, strike up a conversation with a stranger, see something or do something on campus that you never tried before.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Talk to Strangers
You would be comfortable spending time with old friends. However, you’re going to want to make a few new ones while you’re abroad. While you may occasionally meet someone cool in class, a majority of your potential friendships will come from being out in the city. So figure out a game plan for those nights when you don’t want to go back to your apartment alone. Do some research on the city where you’ll be staying, and make a list of interesting places to visit.
3. Be Mentally Prepared for the Challenges That Come With Studying Abroad
When you’re studying abroad, your entire situation will be different. You might not understand the local language, you’ll be in a new place with new customs and laws, and it may take some time to get to know your professors and other students. The best thing to do is accept this, roll with the punches and try your best to make friends and learn as much as possible while abroad. Don’t try to force things that aren’t meant to happen, but don’t let these situations get you down either. Remember that this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and you shouldn’t let the challenges of studying abroad end up spoiling your experience.
4. Don’t Just Make New Friends, But Stay in Touch with Them
Seeing an old friend from home or catching up with an old acquaintance from high school or college is always fun. But, after you’ve had your fill of nostalgia, it’s important to make sure that you stay in touch with new friends from abroad as well. Make plans to visit them after the semester ends, send them care packages filled with local treats and souvenirs from your trips home, and make time for Facebook chats. In the process of making new friends, you’ll discover a number of people with whom you can stay in contact for life. While it’s important to make your days abroad special and memorable, it’s equally important to remember these people when you’re back in the U.S.
5. Take Advantage of the Opportunities Throughout the Year
While many of your school breaks are spent catching up with friends back home, consider how much more exciting your study abroad experience would be if you used that time to enjoy life overseas as well. Instead of just going home every summer and fall break, consider studying abroad during spring break and various school breaks throughout the year while still keeping up with schoolwork in between. The UNCC off campus housing program is a good opportunity for you to stay connected with friends and family. Other programs such as the ACE Initiative provide even more opportunities to see your family abroad.
6. Don’t Just Go Home
While this point may be obvious, students abroad often find themselves drawn back to their hometowns at one point or another. The lure of a familiar place and the comfort of your everyday life can be difficult to overcome. For many students, though, it is important that they explore their new countries in between trips home.
In conclusion, you will find that studying abroad adds a level of exciting and new experiences to your college experience. While you’ll have plenty of challenges, you will also have opportunities to see the world in ways you may have never imagined. You’ll be involved in a community of people that share your excitement and unique experiences, and you’ll be amazed at the new skills and perspectives you develop while studying abroad. Make sure that you take these opportunities seriously, learn a little bit more about culture each day, and enjoy yourself while studying abroad.