Tips for Study Abroad Trips
When it comes to studying abroad, people can have totally different reasons to start the journey. They may want to take advantage of a specific learning opportunity or feel a need for excitement and adventure. I have met people who needed to run away from something and others who wanted to challenge themselves.
Whatever the reason, studying abroad is always an exciting experience, but it is definitely not easy. Here are some tips that, after being away from home for six months, I feel can be useful to current and prospective international students.
Live Day by Day
When it’s time to start your travel, just thinking that you will be away from home for months can be discouraging. This is actually one of the main reasons a lot of students never even leave.
When I arrived here, I found out that it’s actually easier to live day by day. Enjoy every small opportunity that each day brings. It can be learning something new, making a new friend or receiving an unexpected text from someone who is waiting for you at home.
At the same time, I suggest planning thoroughly for the experience and collecting as much information as possible. This way you will avoid forgetting your linens and having to cover the mattress with a scarf the first night you spend abroad. (Read College from an International Perspective to learn more about my experience.)
One of my ASU friends is leaving in a few days to study at my home university in Italy for a semester. He just found out that we don’t have the same kind of wall plugs for electricity and that he should buy an adapter before taking off. Just in time.
God Bless the Webcam
I can’t imagine how my ancestors were able to leave my small rural Italian town and move to the United States, Argentina, Canada or Australia, knowing that they would probably never see their family again.
Thanks to new technologies, that problem has been solved. Now with Skype, Facebook, Kakaotalk and Whatsapp, it is possible to keep in touch with all the people you left at home. You can talk for hours for free and interact almost as if you were in the same room.
I usually Skype home every Sunday. My dad sticks the phone among the pillows on the couch and it feels like I am sitting there. Once, he held the phone for me for one hour so that I could see the kitchen and help my mom bake a cake.
Throw Yourself into the Fray
During the first weeks, you may still feel out of your element and wish to hide in your room for as long as possible. Well, don’t. Even if you are scared and you don’t know anybody, just take part in as many events as possible, as soon as possible.
The first weekend I spent at ASU, I took part in the Rambunctious Weekend activities. My friends can testify that I am the clumsiest person on this planet, but I bravely decided to take part if the activities organized by University Recreation (UREC).
One of the activities was a team jump rope. I have never been able to jump more than three times in a row, so I thought my team was doomed to fail. But to my surprise, I was able to jump. It sounds silly but I consider that the first of my achievements overseas. My team lost anyway, but at least it was not entirely my fault.
My friends would say this piece of advice sounds rather cheesy, and maybe it is. But I think that smiling makes everything easier. If you get lost, if you need to ask for something or if you find yourself in an awkward situation, just smile. If you do, people will be more inclined to help you.
They will also be more inclined to smile back and start a small conversation. Trust me, this will be the key to meeting a lot of people and making new friends. You will be taking full advantage of your study abroad experience rather than spending the whole semester alone in a foreign country.