Why Look at Study Abroad Programs?
Many universities offer study abroad programs: opportunities for students to obtain school credit, while being immersed in a different culture. Some study abroad programs involve a classroom setting, while others may focus more on language acquisition, and others may be more internship-based. Whatever kind you choose, a study abroad can be one of the most rewarding and important experiences of your college years. Even if you do not anticipate working internationally, there are several reasons to consider a study abroad program.
1. Become a better citizen of the world. Today, knowing a second language and some knowledge of another culture are becoming increasingly beneficial. Even if you do not intend to work internationally, the United States is home to many different ethnicities and languages other than English. No matter what kind of work you end up doing, you will eventually interact with someone from a different background than your own. Going on a study abroad, then, can help you learn how to interact with people who see the world differently than you.
2. Enhance your resume. Employers often want candidates who are not only capable of the job, but have a mature perspective of the world and could be interesting to work with. Having a study abroad on your resume, then, can demonstrate both of these traits. As many companies have international clients, employees, or even offices abroad, having foreign language proficiency in at least one other language can also be a big plus for future employment.
3. Traveling younger, rather than older, is often better. Life becomes much more complicated after you graduate. When you start working full-time, you cannot always take time off when you want, and you will probably be focusing more on paying back student loans. Graduate programs usually do not have nearly as many study abroad opportunities (if at all). While some graduate students travel internationally for research, these opportunities often require extensive funding, which is not always granted. Studying abroad during your undergraduate years, then, is probably the time when this opportunity is the most accessible to you.
How to choose the right study abroad program for you?
Choosing the right study abroad program can be a difficult task, and it may require some extensive research on your part. Perhaps you are concerned about potential costs. Or perhaps you are looking at other programs outside your university. Here are some tips to keep in mind while considering the vast choices you have.
1. Consider your goals.
What do you want to accomplish on a study abroad? Are you hoping to learn another language? Or deepen your understanding of art history? Or do you want to have an internship-based experience? If you have clear goals of what you want to accomplish, you will be able to effectively narrow your search.
2. Know which foreign environments that you would be comfortable in.
Could you spend several months living in a remote village without modern conveniences? Would you rather live in a small town or in a large city? Would you be comfortable living with a family whom you have not met before? These are all questions that you need to honestly ask yourself before applying anywhere. If you know that you need Internet accessibility, for example, living in an Ethiopian village may not be the right fit for you. Look at the program carefully and think if you would be content living the described conditions for several months.
3. Be aware of cost
This is an area that many students are especially worried about. However, if you think carefully about your goals, you may be able to effectively decrease your expenses. If you want to study French, for example, perhaps doing a study abroad in Cameroon could help you accomplish that goal and spend less money than going to Paris. You should also check your desired program for any scholarships and fellowships, and be aware of those application dates.
4. Be realistic about where you could be accepted.
Some study abroad programs are much more competitive than others. Others are looking for students with certain majors or work experience. Be sure that you have a GPA and background that is commensurate with what they are looking for.
What to do after you have been accepted to a study abroad
Congratulations on being accepted to your study abroad program! Your next task is to prepare for one of the most adventurous times of your life. To avoid unnecessary stress and mishaps, here are some general tips to follow. Be sure to check with your program director or university for more specific preparations.
1. Take care of proper travel documents.
If you don’t have a passport, apply for one right away. If your passport is up to six months from expiration, be sure to renew it accordingly. Some countries may require travel visas, so be sure to check your country’s embassy website. When buying plane tickets, check with your university’s travel agency first; they can help you purchase tickets with a student discount. .
2. Prepare your travel funds
To avoid your bank putting a hold on your account, let them know your travel dates as well as the countries you will be visiting. You should also check to see if your bank partners with any banks in your host country. If that is the case, you may be able to avoid transaction fees. Be sure to research how purchases are conducted in your host country. Do most transactions require cash, or can you usually use your debit or credit card? Ask your program director about recommended cash amounts to carry.
3. Do some research on your host country’s language and etiquette.
This will be especially important if you have little prior knowledge about your host country. Try to learn a few useful phrases: “please,” “thank you,” and “can you tell me where ______ is located,” can make all the difference. To avoid embarrassing interactions with foreign classmates or a host family, have a basic knowledge of your host country’s manners. You’ll be more likely to get your cultural experience off on a good start!
4. Be aware of what you need to bring and what to leave behind.
Before you start packing, check your airline’s baggage restrictions to avoid any unexpected fees. Be aware of the expected weather while you are there, and pack accordingly. If you want to use anything that requires an outlet, be sure to have the proper adapter. Many programs strongly recommend a card holder that you can put around your neck to carry your passport, cash, and other necessary identification cards.
Female safety tips on a study abroad
Women often have more of a difficult cultural adjustment than men. Perceived gender roles in other countries are not necessarily the same as that of the United States, which can lead to frustration and anxiety. Many women, for example, state that they receive more unwanted sexual attention, whether it is through being honked, stared, or yelled at. Foreign men often view American women as more “liberal” than other women, which can lead to cultural misunderstandings. Below are some general safety tips especially catered to female travelers. Be sure to talk to your program director for any additional safety tips.
1. Dress more conservatively
While you may be comfortable wearing a tank top and short shorts in the United States, this kind of attire may be inappropriate in some countries. Some parts of the Middle East, for example, require women to cover their shoulders and wear shorts to the knee. While other countries may not be as strict as the Middle East, wearing more modest clothing will help you detract attention.
2. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry, flashy cameras and American logos.
You don’t want to be a target for theft either; expensive accessories can be an invitation for theft. Refraining from wearing distinctive American clothing can also help you avoid anti-American sentiment.
3. Avoid eye contact with strangers.
While it is not uncommon to politely acknowledge or smile at strangers in the United States, these gestures can lead to unwanted situations. Look straight ahead when a man is uncomfortably trying to get your attention
4. Travel with someone else.
Having at least one other person with you can make all the difference for your personal safety. Look out for your peers, and be sure they know where you are if you have to depart briefly from the group. If you have to travel alone, be sure to especially avoid alleys, suspicious neighborhoods, and streets with poor lighting.
5. Travel light.
You don’t want to be weighed down with baggage if you suddenly find yourself in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation. Carry a light daypack that contains things you can afford to lose.
6. Talk to your program director if you experience an uncomfortable situation.
Your directors can help you avoid occurrence like these happening again, as well as contacting the police, if necessary.
How to Bargain in a Market
Markets can be one of the best places to buy souvenirs during your time abroad. While some items may have a fixed price, many of these markets operate on a bargaining system, where you and the vendor have to decide on what an item is worth. While vendors can be honest with their prices, others perceive tourists as wealthy and naïve, and may persuade you to pay more than you should. It can feel frustrating to feel cheated, especially when you hear of your friends buying the same item for a cheaper price. But with keeping some tips in mind, anyone can become a successful market bargainer.
1. Take a look around the entire market before buying something you want.
Many items are not unique to one single vendor. If you see something you want, check to see if other places are selling the same thing. This will help you better understand you selection, as well as compare prices.
2. Don’t be afraid to negotiate with the vendor’s initially stated price.
Have a general idea of what you are willing to pay for the item. If the vendor gives you a price that higher than you expect, don’t be afraid to offer half of the stated amount. This will signal to the vendor that you are not a naïve tourist; you are aware of the bargaining system. Often, the vendor may offer a price that is the average between the initially stated price and your offer, which may be satisfactory to you.
3. If you are dissatisfied with the price, or the vendor is unwilling to negotiate, walk away.
Walking away from a vendor gives them added pressure to negotiate. More often than not, the vendor will cave in and give you the price you ask for. If they do not follow you, you are better off bargaining with another vendor—and get the price you want.
Dealing with Homesickness
While your study abroad can be one of the most exciting times of your life, it is quite natural to feel homesick at times for your friends and family. However, these feelings do not have to cripple your experience abroad. If a periodic Skype or FaceTime chat with a loved one does not help you manage homesickness, here are some additional tips to eliminate or lessen those feelings when they come.
1. Stay involved in your study abroad program.
Don’t allow your homesickness make you less interested in your program. Focus on your studies, forging new friendships, and taking part in enriching cultural experiences. If you are feeling more homesick than usual, commit yourself to doing something new or unfamiliar to you for the day: trying a new dish, going to a museum for the first time, or expanding your vocabulary. Being committed to your studies and immersing yourself in a foreign culture will make you think much less about home.
2. Resist the urge to spend enormous amounts of time on Skype, Facebook, and email.
Certainly, it is important to keep in touch with those you care about. But don’t let your drive to keep in touch with your friends and family compromise the quality of your study abroad. When you look back on your time abroad later on, you may regret missing a hike in the Alps simply because you chose to talk with your boyfriend that morning. If you are feeling homesick about events occurring at home, turning off your Facebook newsfeed temporarily may help.
3. Be diligent about recording your study abroad experience.
If you don’t already have a journal, be sure to bring one to record your unique experiences. Take pictures regularly during your excursions. A journal and camera will help you focus on your present experience—and give you fun memories to share with your loved ones when that time comes.
How to Balance Your Studies While Being Abroad
There’s no doubt that writing papers and doing some homework is part of a study abroad experience. You certainly don’t want your study abroad to bring down your GPA. But staying in your apartment to finish a paper instead of exploring Rome’s exciting nightlife can make anyone groan. How can you balance the urge to get as much of a cultural experience as possible without compromising your grades? Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind:
1. Try to do the most exciting and important cultural experiences during the beginning of your semester.
You will probably not be nearly as busy at the beginning of the semester as you are at the end. So while you have more time, try to hit that museum, park, restaurant, or anything else that is especially notable in your area. You will be far more resentful of the final papers and exams you need to study for, if you have not yet done the city’s important cultural attractions.
2. Reward yourself after devoting adequate time to your studies.
Rewarding yourself can ensure that you can still have some fun without your schoolwork being overlooked. Do you want to explore a nightclub? Or check out an exhibition? Tell yourself that you can only do those things after devoting at least three hours to that paper due next week.
3. Plan your homework time around the ideal times to do your activities.
Researching a desired activity’s opening and closing times will help you spend your day more effectively. Suppose a must-see museum closes at 5. If your classes end at noon, consider spending your afternoon at that museum. You can then schedule your homework time after that museum closes.
4. Talk to your professor about how you can incorporate cultural activities into your studies.
Most professors want you to have an exciting cultural experience as much as you do. Many excursions and trips, then, will often be part of the classroom curriculum. If you feel, however, that devoting time to your studies may be hindering you from exploring a city as much as you planned, consider asking them how you can receive credit for doing an appropriate cultural activity.
Walking tours can be one of the best ways to explore a new city, especially during your first week abroad. First, it gives you the chance to get your bearings, as you orient yourself around a new location. Secondly, it provides you with a tour guide who is usually a local. He or she can be a perfect resource for restaurants, shops, nightlife, or most questions you may have about your new city. Finally, you can often find walking tours according to your interests. Many cities, for example, offer architecture, historical, ghost, and food tours for tourists. Some older cities even offer unique underground sewer and street tours that are rare elsewhere.
If your program does not provide a walking tour, or if you are curious about what tours your city has to offer, visit a tourism office to get more information. If a certain tour looks interesting to you, be sure to do the following:
1. Call or have someone at the tourism office check its availability. While many walking tours can accommodate large groups, tours can often become full fast, especially if you are abroad during a high tourist season.
2. Check if the tour takes reservations. Some tours require that you reserve a spot online, while others simply require you to show up at a designated spot.
3. Be sure that you know how to get to the meeting spot for a tour, and give yourself enough time to get there, especially if you are unfamiliar with your city.
4. Bring comfortable walking shoes (especially if you are walking on cobblestone streets) and an umbrella.
5. Bring some cash on hand to tip your tour guide at the end of the tour. Your guide only gets a fraction of what you paid, and so a tip is customary and greatly appreciated.
How to Learn a Language Effectively on a Study Abroad
A study abroad can be one of the most effective ways to learn and perfect another language. Even if you are staying with a host family, learning another language will require continual diligence and effort on your part. Here are some ways to acquire mastery over a foreign tongue:
1. Carry vocabulary flashcards wherever you go.
Give yourself flashcards to mastery a set of vocabulary for the week. Consider studying vocabulary according to subject matter: food and restaurants, hobbies, careers, etc. Quiz yourself regularly throughout the week on these words, especially when you are riding on public transportation. Give yourself some opportunities to practice these words throughout the week as well. If you have spent the week on food vocabulary, for example, try asking for those foods at an outdoor market.
2. Carry a notebook to write down words you don’t know.
Listen carefully to what others are saying. If you hear someone saying something unfamiliar to you, write it down before you forget it. If you don’t know how to spell it, spell it out the best you can until your host family or a native can spell it for you. Writing things down will help you retain your new vocabulary. Try to make a goal of writing down at least ten new words a day.
3. Spend a day (or longer) not speaking English at all.
After you have spent some time in your country, commit yourself to only speak the language you are trying to learn for at least 24 hours. This challenge will force you to learn new vocabulary and review grammatical principles as you attempt to express yourself. If you are still in the beginning stages of learning a language, commit yourself to spending a half-day of avoiding English.
4. Resist the temptation to spend large amounts of time with other English speakers.
This can be tricky, especially if you are homesick or if you do not feel comfortable with the new language. However, studying a language while speaking your native tongue regularly will not help you improve. Get to know your host family or other locals in the area instead. Continually put yourself in situations where you are forced to speak a new tongue.
5. Be patient with yourself.
Languages are not developed in a week, and neither is language acquisition. Don’t get frustrated when you make mistakes or you can’t remember a vocabulary word at the opportune moment. If you make continual daily efforts, you will eventually find yourself at ease conversing with locals—perhaps even understanding their jokes as well.
How to Avoid Gaining Weight on a Study Abroad
Studying abroad provides the perfect opportunity to try delectable chocolates, pastries, and other tasty treats that you won’t find in the United States. But no one wants to come home only to find that those outfits you wore several months ago no longer fit. How then, can you balance your new cravings to try these treats while making sure that you don’t gain those dreaded pounds? Here are some tips:
1. Walk as often as possible
You will most likely not have access to a car, which may give you more opportunities to travel on foot. Fortunately, most cities in Europe and other places are ideal walking cities. Instead of taking public transportation, opt to walk for certain destinations. In addition to keeping those pounds off, you will get to know your city better, as well as discover new and exciting shops and restaurants.
2. Limit yourself to one treat a week
There is certainly no reason not to try the famous Italian gelatos or the notable Austrian pastries. But these treats will be even more sumptuous if you establish certain limits. You can even think of rewarding yourself for finishing a paper or project with a treat you have been craving.
3. Carry water with you daily.
As mentioned in a previous post, water fountains are not nearly as common abroad as they are in the United States. Drinking water constantly is not only a healthy practice, but can also help you feel full without needing to eat constantly.
4. If possible, shop at a local grocery store
Eating at restaurants frequently will lighten your wallet and give you far less control over what you are eating. Grocery shopping can give you more access to fruits and vegetables, and other healthy foods that can satisfy your appetite.
How to Get Along With Your Host Family
Living with a host family is a privilege. It is not only an ideal way to learn a language; it also provides you the means to better immerse yourself in a foreign culture, as well as give you opportunities to forge meaningful relationships. While you should not feel obligated to spend time with them constantly, being a respectful guest is a responsibility that you should take seriously. Here are some important tips to keep in mind:
1. If you are unfamiliar with their language, be prepared to learn some basic phrases prior to arrival.
While you are not expected to be fluent in the language, knowing some phrases, such as greeting someone else, is important. Learning some phrases beforehand will not only help you learn the language, but show respect for your host.
2. Bring a present for them on your arrival.
Think of a gift that is local to the United States, or even your hometown. Your host family may appreciate learning more about you and where you come from. A small gift also shows that you are aware of their hospitality.
3. Be courteous of your host family’s rules, space, and possessions.
This is probably the most important rule to keep in mind, and cannot be emphasized enough. Be aware of what space is yours, and what space is not. Keep your space clean at all times. If you want to bring a friend over for the evening, know your family’s protocol about having guests. Even if your host has rules that are strange to you, follow them anyway.
4. Try getting to know them.
You should not feel obligated to spend time with your host family at all times. However, as you will be there for a while, show genuine interest in them. Trying to understand their interests and pastimes will not only help you learn the language, but also help your develop friendships, which will contribute greatly to a meaningful study abroad experience.
5. Talk to your director if you have any problems.
If you feel that your host family is significantly hindering you from having a positive experience abroad in any way, talk to your director. You should not have to handle potentially difficult situations on your own. Your director can help you resolve issues that may arise, or find new accommodations if need be.
How to Live on a Budget on a Study Abroad
Before going abroad, you should be aware of how much money is available to you. From that amount, you can then designate how much you plan to spend on food, activities, drinks, and souvenirs. Living on a budget will be especially vital when living in more expensive cities, and help ensure that you have enough to live on the last week or two abroad. Here are some tips to help you go easy on your wallet.
1. Be aware of the currency’s exchange rate.
Each time you see a price tag, make a mental note of how much that amount converts into US dollars. This will be especially important when you are trying to decide whether or not to buy that flashy dress you want.
2. Grocery Shopping
While many of the restaurants and outdoor food stands are enticing, you are much more likely to save money by grocery shopping, especially if you are not living with a host family. If you are living with another student, ask them if they want to split groceries with you.
3. Be you have an international student card
Before you go abroad, be sure that you apply for an international student abroad. These cards are inexpensive and will save you money in the long run: many countries will only recognize these cards when offering student discounts.
4. Look for inexpensive or free activities
Enjoying a new culture does not have to come at the expense of your wallet. Search online for free museums, concerts, or art galleries, as well as any local parks of interest.
5. Look for secondhand clothing stores
This will be especially useful to those who are especially interesting in shopping for clothes abroad. Before going to the malls or even the outdoor market to get the clothes you want, check a secondhand store first. You may be surprised at what you find.
Going on a study abroad with food allergies can be tricky to manage as you are acclimating to a new culture. But with some preparation beforehand, dealing with an allergy can be possible. Here are some tips to live with your food allergies abroad:
1. When booking your flight, talk to your airline about your food allergy and see what food options are available to you. For your own peace of mind, you may want to pack your own food in your carry on during the flight.
2. If you need to bring excess food, do proper research on customs restrictions on bringing food into your host country. For precautions, keep a doctor’s note with you on hand as well as in your suitcase with the food. If needed, have the prescription translated in your host country’s language. This can be of help when going through customs to explain why you are bringing excess food to the country.
3. If you are learning a language, know the proper vocabulary to recognize and explain your allergy.
Be sure that you are able to communicate to your host family, a restaurant waiter, street vendors, and anyone else about your allergy. You should know how to recognize it on food labels as well. For allergies that are especially severe, consider making a food allergy card to give to a chef or host family. The card should contain a description of your food allergies and instructions on how to prepare your meal.
4. Bring any necessary medication with you.
Be sure that you are adequately prepared for any emergency. Have enough medication to last for your study abroad.
5. Know of the nearest health facility.
In case of any emergency know where and how to get to a hospital or health clinic, especially if your food allergy is especially severe.
6. Do some research on your host country’s foods beforehand. Doing so could help you now what foods you can eat and what to avoid. Ask your program director if there are any alumni with food allergies that you could speak to.
7. Prepare your own meals. Not only will you save more on your food bill, but you can have greater control on what you are putting into your body.
While cars are a normalcy in the United States, your study abroad will likely introduce you to the convenience of public transportation. Busses, trains, and sometimes taxis are an inexpensive and often essential way to get around. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of the public transportation in your city.
1. Know the bus and train pass system in your host city. If you plan to use public transportation frequently, do some research on any bus or train passes. These passes are often valid for an extensive period time and may save you money in the long run.
2. Know the operating hours of the public transportation to plan your outings accordingly. If you plan to stay out late, do some research beforehand on the night bus system, or other public transportation options. You don’t want to be stuck in an unfamiliar location of your host city at 2 AM.
3. Know how to spot an official taxi.
Some areas in Europe and elsewhere have people who pose as taxi drivers, which can compromise your safety. Ask your program director or former alumni about the taxi situation in your host country, and how you can differentiate between an official and fake taxi.
4. Always keep your ticket with you.
In some areas of the world, you will have to show your ticket after boarding. Be prepared to show an officer your ticket when asked.
5. When learning a new language, be sure to learn the train, bus, and taxi vocabulary as soon as possible. This will help you adjust more quickly to your surroundings.
Long Distance Relationships Abroad
Long distance relationships can be difficult to balance and make time for on a study abroad, especially if you and your partner are on two different continents. Fortunately, with the wider range of technology, relationships from afar can seem nearer than ever before. If you both have made this decision to pursue a relationship long distance, make sure that you explain to one another your expectations. This may include a general idea of how much time you can give, the means of communication you prefer to use, and a general idea of your schedule. If needed, you may also have to define the nature of your relationship while abroad. Is your relationship exclusive, or it is open? With some effort and clear communication on both sides, long distance relationships can work—and can even be fun. Here are some ideas to help you maintain and even strengthen your relationship with one another.
1. Do everything you can to follow the scheduled time to talk to one another.
If you agreed to talk at 7 pm every night, do everything possible to keep that rendezvous. Let your partner know as soon as possible if you cannot make it. Remember to be patient with one another, as the unexpected may occur.
2. Be aware of all the technology available to you.
If you have a smartphone, do you know how to use Facetime? Are you familiar with Viber? Do you have a Skype account? If you are not already, be sure to familiarize yourself with all of your options. Do some research on your accommodation’s Wifi connection beforehand, if possible, so that you can plan accordingly.
3. Share an online journal or scrapbook.
This can be especially useful if you want to try something other than merely talking to one another. You can share pictures and letters to recount your day and express your affection.
4. Pursue common interests together.
This can be a special way to help show your partner that you are interested in incorporating him or her into your context. Are you both interested in hiking? Cooking? Wherever your common interests lie, try doing similar activities about the same time. This practice can also help your partner feel a little closer to you.
Mixing dating with a foreign culture can become enormously complicated, so don’t feel embarrassed if you don’t pursue romantic possibilities with the local men. In fact, studying abroad can be a perfect hiatus from dating, as you can solely focus on learning a language and familiarizing yourself with your surroundings. Falling in love abroad with a local, however, can be alluring for others—especially in an exciting region of the world. If you are open to the idea of dating abroad, here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Your visa will eventually expire.
Remember that you will only be in the country for a short time. That doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy romantic evenings on the beach or motorcycle rides across the countryside with your lover. But at the end of your program (if not earlier), you will have to decide whether this romance is merely a fling, or if you are open to pursuing an intercontinental relationship—even relocating.
2. You will miss out on opportunities that you may later regret.
Of course, it is exciting and wonderful to spend romantic time with someone else in a beautiful, alluring city. But your time with him can also compromise other opportunities you could have taken to develop meaningful friendships with others, outings to help you familiarize with the city, or even develop important language skills. The time you spent pursuing a romantic fling could give you regret later on.
3. Cultural barriers can make it hard to understand the other.
While a romance in Rome could make anyone feel like all sunshine and butterflies, remember that all relationships take work. Unfortunately, language and cultural barriers, in addition to the usual difficulties that couples face in any relationship, can make mutual understanding much more complicated.
4. Bring things with you to practice safe sex.
It’s easy to let loose and be more relaxed on a study abroad than back home. But if you plan to have sex, take the same necessary precautions that you always do. Bring birth control pills, latex condoms, and anything else with you. Do not assume these items will be readily available abroad.
Getting out of your comfort zone on a study abroad
When studying abroad, you will be much more likely to have a more enriching experience if you are continually expanding your horizons. Without taking some degree of risk during your time abroad, you may look back on your time abroad with some regret. If your experience so far is feeling stagnant, here are some ways to spice things up:
1. Try the weirdest dish that is native to your host country. If you have already tried the pastries, breads, and other familiar things, now may be the time to ask a local about one of the region’s most unique specialties. While you may not enjoy the dish, it can still be a great story to tell later.
2. Go to all of your host city’s cultural attraction, even those that may not pique your interest. Are you avoiding going to that local art museum because of your distaste for modern art? Are you afraid of climbing a nearby mountain because you have never enjoyed hiking? You may be surprised at how much you can learn and even enjoy from visiting places that may not seem that exciting or interesting in the first place.
3. Get to know different people in your program.
It can be easy to stick with those whom you already knew beforehand or your roommate. But don’t assume that you can’t make friendships elsewhere. Try inviting other people whom you do not know as well to lunch and other outings you may be attending.
4. If you haven’t already, make friends with the locals.
For some, this can be hard to do. Cultural and language barriers can make it harder to understand another person. But local friendships can especially enrich your experience abroad. Plus, if you want to visit your host country again, you will have people to reconnect and perhaps even stay with.
5. Every day, try to create an experience that you haven’t done already.
This can be simple. Go down a different street than you usually do on the way to school. Try cooking a dish native to your host country. Hang out with your host brother or sister if you don’t know them very well. If you are feeling especially brave, try getting a haircut in your host country. You will have so many more interesting stories to tell your friends and family if you are attempting to do something new every day.
Keeping a Blog on a Study Abroad
Blogs nowadays are one of the most effective ways to record and share your experiences. Not only are blogs free and easy to navigate, they can also save you space that you would usually use to put in a journal or travel notes. You can even change the privacy settings if you only want a select few—or no one else—to read it. On the opposite scale, a successful blog can eventually become monetarily advantageous, as heavy traffic can lead ads paying you for using your blog space. If you want to start a blog, or are looking for some topics to write about other than your day-to-day happenings, here are some tips:
1. Write about funny experiences abroad.
As you adjust to culture shock, make language mistakes, or have other mishaps, hilarious events can happen. Throughout the day, write down or make a mental note of comical instances that may have happened to you that day.
2. Record your notes from class.
Do you want to ensure that you don’t lose your notes from that incredible art history class? Your blog can be a great way to keep those notes handy, as well as sharing interesting tidbits of what you learned to your loved ones at home.
3. Write about lessons you are learning.
As you adjust to a new culture and environment, you are probably going to get to know yourself much better than you ever have before. You may also learn some important and difficult life lessons that you don’t want to forget.
4. Write about your proudest moments. Perhaps you gave directions to someone else in your target language. Or maybe you just came home from a successful outing that you had planned. Be sure to write down those moments.
5. Write some tips for future participants in mind. What are some things you wish you knew before your program? How could you have prepared better? If you are looking to increase your blog traffic, looking for ways that your blog can prove useful to others should be something to consider.
Grocery Shopping Abroad
Grocery shopping can be a fun and exciting adventure, as you have easy access to foods and labels that are not found in the United States. In the long run, it is also more likely to save you money, rather than continually eating from restaurants and food stands. It can also be difficult and even stressful experience, however, if you expect grocery shopping to be virtually identical to the United States. Here are some things to expect, as well as strategies to stay on a budget:
1. Food stores tend to be much more specialized than American grocery stores. Chances are, you may not be able to find everything you need in one place. You may have to buy bread at a bakery, meat at a butcher shop, and toiletries at a convenience or pharmacy.
2. Self-checkout lines are not nearly as prevalent as they are abroad. Do not expect a “quick” grocery run to take the same amount of time as one in the United States.
3. Buy fruits and vegetables that you can eat on the go. Apples, oranges, carrots, and other fruits and vegetables can be a great, healthy snack. Be sure that you peel and wash them prior to eating.
4. If possible, get lunch meats, cheeses, and breads for a sandwich. Living off lunch sandwiches can save you money in the long run.
5. Breakfast cereal, yogurts, and milk are items that you can find almost anywhere and are cheaper than buying breakfast everyday. Be sure that any dairy products you purchase are pasteurized.
6. Stir fry can be a healthy, cheap dinner dish to cook at home. Even if your host country does not have the same vegetables as a traditional stir fry dish, vegetables, chicken, and rice are staple, inexpensive items you can find just about anywhere.
While learning a new language will take time and effort on your part, there is no reason why it can’t be fun as well. If you are tired of reviewing flashcards or doing workbooks, here are some innovative and fun ways to enhance your language studies.
1. Listen to upbeat music in your host country’s language when you wake up. It will help you get your body and mind moving for the day. If possible, get music you are familiar with in your target language. You may be surprised just how much vocabulary you can learn.
2. Watch movies in the language. Instead of passively having the English subtitles at the bottom, try listening closely to write down phrases and words you don’t know. Or try to comprehend a movie scene, and watch it a second time with subtitles to check your comprehension.
3. Strike up conversations with locals you don’t know. This sounds uncomfortable for many, but you should always think of a study abroad as a time to get out of your comfort zone. When buying things at the local market, learn to say something like: “Hi, I am trying to learn your language. Can you tell me what this fruit or vegetable is?” Many locals are impressed, if not excited, that a foreigner is trying to learn their language. You may even make a friend after the process.
4. Learn vocabulary prior to doing an activity of your interest. If you want to bake a dessert with friends, for example, learn all of the vocabulary associated with the dessert’s ingredients and baking instructions.
5. Reading children’s books in your target language can be a fun way and simple ways to practice your grammar and vocabulary, especially as a beginner.
6. Change your Facebook or other computer settings in the language you are trying to learn, and see how well you can navigate.
What not to bring on a study abroad
Packing can be a stressful process, especially as you debate what you should bring and what should stay home. While every study abroad varies, this is a general list of items that can save you needed room in your suitcase. Keep in mind that purchasing some items abroad, rather than bringing them with you, may be cheaper in the long run, since you will be avoiding airline fees for overweight baggage. You will also want to save space for the keepsakes and souvenirs when you get back.
1. Sheets and Linens
Unless you are told to bring these , you are better off leaving your favorite bed sheets behind. If your accommodations do not provide sheets, then purchase an inexpensive set to use while you are there.
2. High heeled shoes
Lots of areas in the world have uneven and cobblestoned streets that will make high-heeled shoes uncomfortable. You will be much better off having shoes that you can easily walk in. If you need dressy shoes, bring some stylish flats.
3. Hair dryers, straighteners, and curling irons. Even with an adapter, they do not always work properly. If you need these items, just purchase them once you get there. If you are looking to save money, consider splitting the price of these items with other females in your program.
4. Expensive Jewelry
Even though jewelry does not take up space, you don’t want to risk losing something that is especially valuable. Bring only inexpensive jewelry—if you want to bring any at all. Keep in mind that you can probably purchase inexpensive jewelry at a local market in your host country.
5. Shampoo, conditioner, and other toiletries:
Unless you cannot live without a certain toiletry item, (or if you know that you will not be able to buy them in your host country), leave it at home. You should be able to purchase these items abroad.
Items to Bring for a Study Abroad in the Wintertime have the right legwear. Patterned tights can be a fun way to dress up your outfit Nothing can make a study abroad more miserable than realizing that you don’t have the right clothing. While you can always purchase clothing abroad, bringing at least some appropriate outfits will save you frustration and time. Here are some tips to make sure you are packing appropriately, while still staying in style. Be sure you talk to your study abroad director about additional items to pack.
1. Winter coat. While you may be comfortable with a wool coat or heavy jacket, a long, down coat should be on your list if you are traveling to an especially cold area. For your convenience, a coat or jacket with a hood is probably best.
2. Winter Boots. Find some waterproof boots that you are also comfortable walking in. If needed, break them in beforehand.
3. Mittens, earmuffs, hat, and other warm accessories. These accessories not only provide added warmth, but can also jazz up an outfit. Bring a scarf or two: a scarf can be both stylish and keep you extra comfortable. Try purchasing warm accessories in colors that you can match with your coat and other clothing items. If you need more of these accessories, check out a local marketplace where you can probably get them at an inexpensive price.
4. Tights and Leggings. You can still get away with wearing a cute dress or skirt if you.
5. Sweaters. A sweater with a solid color paired with a warm, patterned scarf can spice up your outfit.
6. Long, wool socks: These can add essential warmth if your Levi’s just aren’t cutting it.
7. Consider bringing a hot thermos for those especially nippy days. Sipping your coffee or tea can add extra warmth.
When traveling abroad, you will want to ensure that you get the best exchange rate possible. While it may seem more convenient to exchange your money at home in your local bank, most experts agree that switching your money abroad is your best option. After checking a currency converter, here are some tips to get your money’s worth:
1. An ATM is your best option to draw out local currencies. Check with your local bank beforehand if they partner with any of the banks in your host country. If that is the case, use these partnering banks to avoid transaction fees. Even if you are charged a fee, this option is still cheaper than others. Be sure to let your bank know where you are going, as many banks will freeze your account if they find your card operating in another country.
2. Local banks can also be an inexpensive option to exchange money. Be aware that a bank’s exchange rate will be one of the following: a fixed price set by the government or the fluid, “market” price established by the foreign exchange market.
3. Avoid exchanging money at airports and hotels. Both of these locations usually have high transaction charges. Don’t use these options unless you have to.
4. If you are planning to use a credit card in Europe, be aware of their chip and pin situation. Some machines may require you to have a credit card with a pin number, which is something that is almost nonexistent in the United States. Be prepared to use cash or go to a manned booth.
5. Use your credit card when making a large purchase. Credit cards have access to better exchange rates than you do.
6. Never exchange money with someone off the street. In addition to possibly compromising your safety, you are not likely to have an exchange rate in your favor.
Avoiding Jet Lag
When preparing for an exciting adventure abroad, it can be easy to forget that your body’s internal clock can take several days to adjust to a new time zone. This condition is known as jet lag, which includes but is not limited to disrupted sleeping patterns, confusion, and an inability to concentrate. To reduce jet lag’s effects, be sure to adhere to the following tips:
1. Try adjusting your sleeping schedule several days before you leave. If you are traveling eastward, for example, shift your bedtime a half hour earlier each night to help adjust to your new time zone.
2. Avoid the temptation to have a late night party with your friends, and get a solid night’s sleep before traveling.
3. Stay hydrated on the plane. Be sure to drink plenty of liquids—even if you are not thirsty. If you are of drinking age, limit or avoid alcohol intake on the plane. Alcohol will only make you more dehydrated.
4. When on an overnight flight, sleep on the plane. This will help you have more energy when you make your landing in the afternoon or evening. If you take sleeping pills, take an appropriate amount to avoid feeling too groggy when landing. Bring earplugs, eye mask, and a pillow for a more comfortable sleep.
5. Consider taking melatonin. Melatonin is a nonprescription drug that has been proven to alleviate jet lag during the first few days of your time abroad.
6. If you land in the morning or afternoon, do not go to sleep right away. Don’t even take a nap, unless this is part of your regular sleeping pattern. Stay awake until the early evening, at the very least. Being active during the day and sleeping at night will help your body adjust to a new time change.
Airport and Customs
Without adequate preparation and knowledge of security measures, airports can be a frustrating and stressful experience. Here are some tips to help your international flight be as smooth as possible.
1. Be sure that your baggage fits your airline’s size and weight requirements. If you need to check two bags, know beforehand whether you will be charged an additional fee. If you are transferring airlines, be sure that you check their regulations as well.
2. Familiarize yourself with carry-on bag restrictions. Make sure that your liquids in your carry do not exceed 3.4 ounces (100 mL). You must be able to fit all of your liquids in one quart-sized Ziploc bag, so plan accordingly. For more information on what you can and cannot bring in a carry-on bag, see http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/prohibited-items.
3. For an international flight, plan on arriving three hours early. Remember to plan in your travel time from your location to the airport. When traveling during peak times, consider arriving even earlier. You never know how long it will take to check in your baggage and go through the security line.
4. Prepare to show your passport multiple times prior to your flight. Be sure that your student visa (if required) is also with you.
5. To save time, many airlines now allow you to check in your bags online. See your airline for more details.
Typically during the last hour or two of your flight, you will be asked to submit a customs declaration form. You will then wait in a customs line to speak with an agent. Be prepared show the agent your form and answer several questions about your travels, such as how long you will be in the country, the purpose of your trip, and where you are staying. Have your passport and student visa (if necessary) ready to show the agent. Look up the international airport’s customs policies if you are unsure about you can and cannot bring. You will go through customs again when returning to the United States.
Additional Tips to Avoid Sickness on a Study Abroad
It’s no fun lying in bed while the rest of your friends are out exploring the Parisian nightlife, the Roman ruins, or the underground streets of Edinburgh. While you cannot prevent every illness from occurring, below are some additional ideas to help you stay healthy throughout your duration abroad.
1. Before traveling anywhere, check the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) webpage for traveler’s health notices and food safety tips at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/food-water-safety. While these tips are especially important in developing countries, you can still get traveler’s diarrhea in a developed country as well. Avoid raw meats, unpasteurized milk, and ice made from tap water. Wash or peel fruits and vegetables prior to eating. Eating food from street vendors can pose additional risks. Talk to your program director about any additional dietary restrictions that you should follow.
2. Make sure that you are up to date with all of your vaccines and get any vaccines recommended by your doctor.
3. Carry bottled water with you. Ask your program director first if it is okay to drink your host country’s tap water. If not, be sure that you have easy access to water that has been sealed.
4. Carry hand sanitizer with you. You cannot assume that all bathrooms have soap and water. Sanitize your hands before eating as well.
5. Wear sunscreen. Bring sunglasses and a hat as well.
6. In addition to prescription medicine, consider bringing over-the-counter medicine as well, such as cough suppressants, decongestant, or ibuprofen.
7. Get adequate sleep. This may sound obvious, but don’t expect yourself to have the appropriate mental and physical energy for the week if you are participating in your host city’s nightlife regularly.
8. Consider bringing vitamins. In some countries, it may be more difficult to maintain a well-balanced diet.
9. Avoid contact with animals.
For more information on protecting your health while abroad, visit http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/studying-abroad
Day Pack Check Off List
Often, your study abroad will provide daylong excursions or longer, where you will get a chance to explore surrounding cities or village. To help make sure that you have a great time, be prepared. While you should always travel light, packing properly will help you be much more comfortable during your adventure. You also won’t have to spend extra cash to purchase things you could have initially brought. In addition to any books or materials you might need, here are some packing essentials:
1. Bottled water. Bottled water can be expensive and sometimes not available, depending on where you are going.
2. Train or bus tickets (if needed).
3. A non-refrigerated snack. Fruit, granola bar, or crackers are ideal.
4. Travel first-aid kit. You could save time looking for bandaids (or even a health clinic) if you have first aid materials on hand.
5. Camera. Taking pictures is one of the best ways to keep those memories.
6. Journal. Take some time to record or at least write down notes to help you remember your adventure.
7. Prescription medicine (if needed)
8. Hand sanitizer. Don’t assume that all bathrooms have soap and water.
9. Watch. Don’t be that girl that everyone is waiting for at the meeting place.
When traveling, be sure to wear comfortable clothing. If you are unsure about the weather, bring an outfit that can be layered. Be sure to leave behind expensive jewelry and other important valuables on an excursion. Carrying a bulky purse will not only slow you down, but also attract unwanted attention.
Instead of having your wallet in your daypack, consider buying a moneybelt (a small pouch where you can store credit cards, cash, and other valuables). Keeping those items close to you will bring more peace of mind and put you at lesser risk for theft.
Health and Immunization on a Study Abroad
As soon as you have been accepted to your study abroad program, check the US Department of State’s webpage at http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country.html for your host country’s health and medical considerations prior to travel. From there, you will have a better idea of any recommended immunizations and health risks to be aware of. For more information, visit the Center for the Disease Control and Prevention’s webpage at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel. This webpage provides continual updates on global travel health notices and health precautions.
Visit a doctor at least 4-6 weeks prior to travel to obtain any necessary vaccinations, and make sure that you are up to date for all routine vaccinations. If you are going to a country where health care is substandard, be sure that you have completed all necessary health checkups, including your dentist. Remember that you are responsible for making sure you have completed all vaccinations and needed medical tests prior to travel.
To help avoid sickness during your study abroad, follow the general guidelines below:
1. Bring hand sanitizer.
Hand sanitizer will be especially necessary in developing countries where bathrooms may not always have soap and water. Be sure that you wash your hands frequently before and after eating, as well as using the bathroom.
2. Know about your host country’s water situation
Not all countries have drinking fountains as common as the United States. In developing countries drinking water is usually limited to water that is boiled or bottled. Be sure that you have continual access to water.
3. Bring a travel first aid kit
You can treat most cuts and bruises with a kit. If you need more serious medical attention, visit http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/go.html about doctors abroad.
4. In tropical areas, bring long pants and insect repellant.
5. Know of the nearest hospital or health clinic to you as soon as you arrive.
6. Have any necessary prescription medicine with you to last for your study abroad.
How to Pose for Study Abroad Pictures
Throughout your study abroad experience, you will have thousands of incredible once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunities. You certainly want to document your trip properly, but how do you be sure that your body looks just as stunning as the background you want to remember? Good news: you don’t have to have a model-like figure to have a perfect shot. Below are some tips to help you avoid cringing when you see your photos later—and maybe even get the perfect new Facebook profile picture.
1. When smiling, press your tongue on the roof of your mouth.
Sure, it sounds odd. But this is a trick used by many celebrities to help elongate the neck and avoid the double chin. Try it—it works!
2. Crossing your ankles
This trick can help make your legs longer and hips narrower. Crossing your ankles is especially flattering if you are wearing a skirt or dress.
3. Putting the hand closest to the camera on your hip
While a hand on your hip may feel a little awkward, this pose is effective for several reasons. First, it is much more of a dynamic look than simply having your hands on your sides. Secondly, it can make your waist look smaller. Finally, your arm that is closest to the camera will probably look larger if it is simply hanging down.
4. Have good posture
It’s been said many times, but standing up straight will always make for a better picture. You will look taller and thinner as a result.
5. Angle your face toward the camera
Having the camera take a picture of your head straight on will probably result in your head looking larger and having unnecessary shadows. Angling your face will make for a much more flattering look.
6. Find your natural smile
Smiling too widely will unnecessarily widen your cheeks, while not smiling at all will never look appealing. Try to find some middle ground between the two. If you are having trouble, remember that a genuine smile typically results in a slight crease in the eyes.