People always say that studying abroad is life changing. You know what? They’re absolutely right.
One of the best opportunities you’ll have to break out of your comfort zone and adapt to a new culture. Best of all, it’s a lot of fun. Going on a vacation is great, but there’s no comparison to what you’ll experience by living abroad for several months or longer.
Here are a few things not to do when studying abroad.
Don’t befriend only fellow internationals
Every study abroad program is different, but it’s not uncommon for all the exchange students to be housed together. Familiarity is a great thing when dealing with a new culture; just don’t rely on it. Make friends with local students and the world will really open up to you. You’ll discover amazing places, delicious foods and cultural tips that you’d never pick up on if you only hung out with fellow foreigners.
Don’t rely on speaking English
It’s amazing how many exchange students don’t learn some of the local language while living there. Depending on where you live, it’s possible to get by with only English. It’s never ideal though. By just speaking a basic level of another language, you’ll find everything becomes easier. Asking directions, buying from the market and making a bad joke in a foreign language amuses the locals and also makes your trip a lot less stressful.
Don’t forget to travel
Odds are you’ll be busy with classwork. Despite the workload, take advantage of weekends and holidays to get off campus and see parts of the country while you have the chance. With time being limited, you might have take overnight buses or travel in some discomfort to make the most of your time. In the end it’ll be worth the trouble.
Don’t neglect recording Your experience
Time will fly by while you’re abroad, and when it’s all over you might forget some of the great things you did. You can go old school and keep a journal detailing everything that happened. If that isn’t up your alley, think about using social media to log your journey. When you’re back home, you’ll appreciate it for years to come.
Don’t focus 100% on studying
The “study” aspect of studying abroad is obviously important. However, it isn’t everything.
You shouldn’t ignore classwork or skip classes, but don’t let it consume all of your time. Go out with your new friends often and make some unforgettable memories. Likewise, if squeezing in a great trip requires skipping a class, consider doing that as a one-off. It’s all about finding the right balance and if you’re on top of your assignments then it’s possible to have some fun.
Don’t stay sheltered
When you’re studying in a place where everything is different, it feels good to fall back on your old habits. As good as it might feel to binge on Netflix, you’re seriously missing out by doing this when abroad. Leave the room as much as you can because your time is limited. When the trip is over, you’ll remember all the fun times you had with new friends but you won’t remember what you watched.
Don’t lose touch with your friends
It’s a bittersweet feeling to have forged great friendships only to have to say goodbye. Still, stay in touch because you never know what might happen. After graduation and years down the road, your paths may cross again. Maybe they’ll come to your country and you can host them. Or maybe you’ll find the opportunity to go on another trip to their country.
In some cases – and this is absolutely possible – keeping in touch with those friends can open up career opportunities in the future if you’re willing to move abroad. It’s unpredictable where you or your friends might end up, so it’s important to stay in touch.