Taking Advantage of Every Opportunity
Episode #10 of the course How to prepare to study abroad by Susanna M. Olson
In this final lesson, I want to give you a bit of advice for studying abroad. These tips are not necessary for study abroad survival, but they will help you take full advantage of your time abroad.
Take time to learn about your destination before you go.
The more you know about the language, culture, and history of your adopted home, the better. First of all, it will be easier to make friends and connect with people if you aren’t breaking every cultural rule in the book. Just showing that you care enough to respect the culture you are entering means a lot. Not only that, but if you understand a little bit of the history and pop culture, you will feel a little less lost in the middle of conversations that will indubitably turn to those subjects. And finally, you will appreciate what you are seeing and experiencing much more if you have a little bit of background knowledge.
Endeavor to learn the the language.
There are so many reasons to give yourself to language learning while abroad. First of all, there will never be a better opportunity to intensify and invigorate your language skills. Secondly, the more you understand the language, the more comfortable you will be navigating life and the more open locals will be to you. Most people will appreciate you trying, even if you make mistakes. It is disrespectful to assume people will understand you if you don’t make the effort to speak the regional language (I’m looking at you, native English speakers!).
All in all, it will simplify every daily activity, and it will be one of the most lasting skills you take away from your time abroad.
Balance traveling with soaking up your new home.
Some study abroad students feel obligated to travel a ton while they are abroad. It is a good idea to plan a few weekend trips even before you arrive (the earlier you plan ahead, the more money you can save!). However, make sure to balance your time traveling and sightseeing with time soaking up your local area. Make it a priority to try to understand what it would be like to live in a certain place. Even if that means slowing down and not spending every other second chasing nearby countries and top tourist destinations.
Don’t look to hang out with people from your own country; make local friends.
There is this weird phenomenon that when you meet someone from your home country while abroad, you feel an instant connection. Even if under normal circumstances, you wouldn’t have anything in common, when you are both far away from home, you might just feel like insta-brothers.
Enjoy that feeling, but don’t lean on it. Make a point to get out and make friends from your new home. Join clubs at your university and participate in local events. The relationships that force you to learn to work with a new culture are the ones that can really impact and change you.
Say yes to every adventure (except the ones you cannot afford).
Yes, you will be overwhelmed at times. Yes, at times, you will be tired and tempted to curl up in bed and binge on Netflix. Remember, this is a short and special time. Make a habit of saying yes.
“Do you want to go hiking with us over the weekend?”
“Hey, wanna grab some food after class?”
Make a habit of just going for it, regardless of how scared or tired you feel (of course, use caution to maintain your health and your budget). While you are studying abroad, many opportunities will come your way. You will regret it later if you turned someone down and spent the afternoon wasting time on YouTube. Even if you are tired. Even if it is out of your comfort zone. Just try things!
And there you have it! Congratulations on finishing this course. Now you know how to survive and thrive on your study abroad journey. I am certain that the adventure in your future will be challenging, life-changing, and incredibly worthwhile.
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