You'll get off to a great start in your new country—and have a more meaningful study abroad experience—if you do some planning before you board the plane.
Your study abroad adventure starts the moment you commit to going. Here are a few tips many study abroad programs provide when their students reach that moment.
What to Do Before You Go
Interview people who studied in your destination country. Find out what challenges they faced and how they dealt with them. Get practical information such as the cost of food and the logistics of getting around town.
Learn about the country and area you are headed to. Find out the top political issues, the main religion(s), and the status of the country's economy. Know the location of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, and the geographical and cultural highlights of the area near your study abroad college.
Prepare for everyday life. Get an International Student ID card—with it, you'll get discounts on just about anything. A debit card loaded with the local currency will also be handy. Bring copies of your travel and ID documents. Choose clothing appropriate for the culture and climate, and get any needed vaccinations.
What to Do Once You Arrive
Immerse yourself in their way of life. If you are living with a host family or local students, you will have a great opportunity to experience daily life. It will be easy for you to try the food and join in local ceremonies and activities. If you are living with other study-abroad students, contact will be more challenging, so make the effort to interact with local people on your own (see below).
Make friends with some locals. Seek out social clubs, sports teams, musical groups, and service organizations in the community. Talk to local students in class, on campus, and at cafes and venues near your college.
Try to learn the language. Speak the local language as much as you can, even if you speak it badly and even if the local people try to speak to you in English. Learning even bits of the language will help you understand the culture better and help you make friends.
Explore your surroundings. Get to know your surrounding neighborhood and take side trips with local friends. Sign up for classes that expose you to the local culture, through field trips or other activities.
Keep a journal. Many students say their journal was the best souvenir of their study abroad experience because it captured moments they would have otherwise forgotten. Keep a handwritten journal if you can. Don't depend on technology, which may not always be available.
- Are you ready to study abroad? Take a look at Seven Signs That Studying Abroad Might Be Right for You.
- See Should You Consider a Gap Year? for another approach to experiencing a productive year away from your college.