Studying abroad is a wonderful experience that gives college students the opportunity to meet new people, travel to exciting destinations, and pick up or improve foreign language skills. Here are a few ways to make the most of studying abroad and have as memorable an experience as possible!
Making Friends: Pick Up an Activity or Sport
President of the Theater Club? Intramural referee? Active in community service? When studying abroad, take an activity of interest from home and find an opportunity to pursue it in the foreign country. It’s a great way to meet new people. Alternatively, take advantage of being away from the normal hectic schedule (no soccer practice every day, no campus job, and no student activities meetings while abroad), and use that time to participate in a new activity.
Traveling: Experience New Places
Take advantage of being a student! Now is the time to capitalize on student discounts for travel. See if it’s possible to, within the destination country, get a special train and/or bus discount card at a special student rate. Websites like STA Travel have branches in many countries around the world, and they offer low prices on flights, hotels/hostels, and so forth. Also check out HostelWorld for cheap, student-centric accommodation.
Learning a Language: Get Out There and Talk!
Whether it’s through taking a class or just by going to a local hangout spot and meeting native speakers, there are plenty of opportunities to improve foreign language skills and build confidence when speaking that language. Don’t just spend time with students who speak the same native language, get out there and meet other international students, with whom it’s also possible to practice language learning.
Additional Tips for Making the Most of Studying Abroad
When participating in a study abroad program or enrolling directly in a foreign university, be sure to take advantage of all that the overseas school has to offer. Student events (concerts, lectures, coffee hours, sporting events, and so forth) are great ways to experience the country’s culture and meet new people.
A few other bits of advice:
Take the opportunity to experience both solo and group travel. Don’t be afraid to travel alone, but be sure to stay street smart when doing so.
Go see a movie made in the foreign country and filmed in the country’s native language.
Take a walk around the city or town upon arrival, and make time to learn how to get around.
Find a couple of regular hangout places to go with friends in order to feel more at home in the new city.
Stay in touch with family and friends at home, but don’t spend an excessive amount of time doing so. Studying abroad is a time to experience new things and meet new people. Enjoy it!
When spending a semester or year in another country, be sure to take advantages of opportunities to meet new people, travel, and develop foreign language skills (if in a country that speaks a different language). Doing so will help enrich the overall study abroad experience, and make it even more memorable and life-changing.
Why Study Abroad
Studying abroad offers many opportunities for all college students to experience another culture and to learn about their area of study in a different environment. Not only does this provide an international perspective to a student’s education, but it helps to add dimension to a student’s resume and creates lifelong memories.
Study Abroad Programs
There are many programs that students can become a part of to study abroad. Some are nationwide programs that offer opportunities to many different institutions across the country, while other programs are only available to students with specific majors, such as education, or at certain schools, such as faculty-led tours during spring break or summer vacation.
Before studying abroad, students who are recipients of financial aid from their college or university should check about financial aid available for study abroad programs. Some schools may modify or restrict institutional aid that is available to students, but the financial aid office may also have suggestions as to grants, scholarships, and loans that are available to students who are studying abroad.
Reasons to Study Abroad
VistaWide offers some reasons as to why students should take advantage of study abroad programs and student exchange programs.
Learning a language. Language immersion is the best way to learn a foreign language by being constantly exposed to the language a student is pursuing. By studying a foreign language in another country, students also learn the cultural background of the language as well.
Developing skills outside of the classroom. By studying abroad, students learn skills such as problem solving, interpersonal communication, and adaptation, that may not be learned in a traditional classroom environment in a student’s native country.
Expanding a student’s worldview. Spending an extended amount of time in another country opens a student’s eyes to other cultures and ways of life, possibly challenging a student’s opinion on various topics and their morals and values.
Enhancing employment opportunities. As economies and corporations become more and more globalized, employers are looking for candidates who have global experience and who understand various cultures. Students who have studied abroad become more marketable because of their expanded worldview, but also because of the skills gained through the experience.
The United States Senate also recommends that undergraduate students should study abroad because of the many benefits that students receive from the experience. Not only do study abroad programs help students understand other cultures, but they also enhance a student’s native culture by bringing back knowledge and ideas.
Studying abroad programs offer a wealth of opportunities for college students. Whether it’s a couple of weeks during summer vacation or for an entire academic year, studying in another country not only enhances a student’s college education, but also helps to make a student more marketable after graduation and adds a new perspective to a student’s life experiences.
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