Studying abroad is the most memorable experience you will make in your college career. Satisfaction guaranteed.
Don’t hesitate; go to that interest meeting. The opportunity may not come again, and if you still need reasons to sign up, keep reading.
What people don’t always realize is that you are going to be in class, a LOT. Some programs require classroom hours Monday through Friday, 8 am to 3 pm with an hour for lunch. That’s highschool time. You are forced to use another language just for everyday activities. Ordering lunch is complicated when you probably relied on google translate in the past, but don’t give up! You will impress yourself with how quickly you adapt. Hello, immersion. Or you’ll take the wrong metro and learn the hard way like Riley McAdams, freshman business marketing major. “A big thing would have to be the subway system…it was intimidating trying to figure out which ‘color’ to take to get us to where we needed to go.”
In your free time….there are sights to see, cities to explore, and wine to be tasted! S’il vous plaît.
Skip the souvenir shops, and spend your money on experience. A keychain gets lost. You won’t forget jungle zip lines or gelato by the Trevi fountain. Ricky Brown, senior CIS major says, “Seeing El Escorial in Madrid was my favorite adventure. Hold on to your wallet and try everything you can”.
Commit to the Culture
You’re a foreign exchange student. This means you are the one sticking out like a sore thumb. It’s important to research about the customs of the country you’re visiting. Most students stay with a host family. It’s best to be grateful and go with the flow. These families are your safety net in a foreign country. They cook for you, entertain you, and sometimes even do your laundry! It’s still a culture shock. In Costa Rica, they expect women to dress modestly as to not attract unwanted attention. In France, modesty is immaterial. Literally. “My mom suggested we check out a beach nearby and it turned out to be a nude beach…when we first got there and realized where we were, they [beachgoers] acted completely normal..even though it was obvious we were shook” (McAdams).
Be aware of your surroundings because tourists are a target for petty thieves. Don’t let this cloud your judgement though, most people you meet are just like you and I. When you keep an open mind, you’ll find common ground and embrace all that’s new. Coming from a divorced family myself, I found solace in the fact that Hispanic families tend to live together in a single home. The family unit is strong. They love to be together: sisters, uncles, sons, grandparents…one roof, one love.
Budget. Budget. Budget.
Studying abroad is very expensive. Don’t let this discourage you. Plan ahead and it’s affordable. There may be financial aid or a special scholarship available through your university to help with costs. Set up a GoFundMe. Friends and family will be excited for you to further your education this way; the support may surprise you.
Once you’re there, set limits for spending. The currency is completely different and it will get hard to keep track of what equals five bucks. Ten US dollars equals about 6,000 Costa Rican colones. Your jaw drops at the extra zeroes, but pump the breaks. This doesn’t mean you’re rich. The economy is also tricky. You need to know what is reasonable and when you’re getting ripped off. You’re not just planning a budget; you’re monitoring supply and demand. We learned to be financially savvy, thank you very much.
Respect what you don’t understand. Learn to appreciate that quirky saying or weird tasting Italian Polenta. Be curious. Asking questions is the best way to learn, and soon others will be asking you the questions – you world traveler you. Take risks. Even if you got lost on the train or spent too much money in a tourist trap, it’s a lesson learned. We appreciate growth.