So you have finally chosen the perfect destination for your dream to study abroad. Are you marking off the days on your calendar before you leave? Or do you feel a little nervous? Don’t worry! By following a few simple tips, you will be able to reap all the benefits of your study abroad experience while still having fun.
The purpose of study abroad is “to train future global leaders to be more effective; respectful of other cultures, political, and economic systems; and willing to take a stand for the world’s welfare" and to open your mind to the amazing cultures from around the world. According to a study abroad alumna, the experience can influence, develop, and can even transform your multicultural worldview!
You’ve studied so hard to get to this point, so keep up your diligence while abroad. Just don’t forget to still enjoy the amazing surroundings. Before leaving home, review your previous studies of the country, such as language, culture, and history. Then, while abroad, commit yourself to your studies again, both in and out of the classroom. Additionally, push yourself to your learning edge, outside your comfort zone, to ensure you grow to your fullest potential during your time abroad.
Although this trip is very exciting and fun, keep in mind that there are various academic, professional, and personal goals that will enhance your study of new cultures. Salisbury says the best case scenario for study abroad “opens [the students’] eyes to a whole another way of thinking about the world…and how their actions and their interactions with people from other cultures…have an effect on the world…and it shapes the way…they think about their own schooling…[and] reshapes the way they think about their own career plan." Possible goals include language acquisition; worldview and cross-cultural development; and professional internship, networking, or skill set attainment.
Anne Reyolds-Case says that the time length of the overall experience is less important that the actual time “interacting with native [persons]." Although homesickness can be a scary side-effect of traveling anywhere, try not to “isolate" with other Americans or English-speakers in your group. If you are feeling lonely for home, talk to a peer or teacher or even call home if you can, but don’t shy away from the people in your new country. In fact, staying with a family in your abroad country—the homestay experience—can feel more like a home away from home. The best idea for homesickness is to focus on your new experiences, so sightseeing and exploring the country are both fun and comforting.
Reflect on your personal experiences and “intercultural development" both abroad and when you come home. Reflective journaling and creating a portfolio are excellent ways to reflect, and they can give you an advantage when writing/discussing your experience to future graduate admission coordinators or prospective employers.
Studying abroad has lifelong benefits, so go forth and be bold!
Dwyer, M. M., & Peters, C. K. (2014). The benefits of study abroad. IES Abroad. Retrieved from iesabroad.org
Fennell, R. (2009). The impact of an international health study abroad program on university students from the united states. Global Health Promotion, 16(3), 17-23. Retrieved from proquest.com
Reynolds-Case, A. (2013). The value of short-term study abroad: an increase in students’ cultural and pragmatic competency. Foreign Language Annals 46(2), 311-322. doi: 10.1111/flan.12034
Salisbury, M. (2012). Weighing the benefits of studying abroad/Interviewer: Tom Gjelten. Talk of the Nation, National Public Radio, Washington, D.C.