5 Tips to Help You Avoid a Bad Study Abroad Experience

By L. Roberts on August 10, 2019

It’s becoming more and more common for college students to study abroad before they graduate from college. Having a “worldly experience” is becoming a more popular requirement of programs across the country. Additionally, students are finding that taking classes in another country is a much more exciting way to earn college credits than sitting on their home campus repeatedly clicking their pens.

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When students study abroad, they often work with their home university’s study abroad office. Students have to complete a list of requirements before they embark on their journey, including turning in a copy of their passport, filing the correct paperwork to ensure their course credits will transfer once they’ve completed their program, and ensuring they’re clear on the start and end dates of their program. The study abroad offices on our campuses are equipped with the tools our students need to ensure their study abroad experience will be anything but negative. However, there are always things that can go wrong. To ensure you don’t have a bad study abroad experience, here are five tips you should follow:

1. Pack lightly.

There are limits on how heavy your luggage can be when you fly internationally. Typically, your checked bag cannot weigh more than 50 pounds. You might think this is more than enough for you to pack all your favorite outfits, but in reality, this is much less room than you think.

Additionally, you’re going to want to leave some room in your suitcase for the treasures you bring back with you while you’re abroad. Surely you’re going to buy something for your loved ones — even if it’s just a magnet for the fridge. To be sure you can get back to the States without paying a “heavy luggage” fine, leave a few pounds of wiggle room in your suitcase before you cross the pond.

2. Make a list of everything you want to do while you’re there.

Going abroad is usually at least a three-week journey. But more than likely, you’re planning a trip that’ll last at least a month in a foreign country. You’ll get to your destination and become covered up in your studies, going out on the town, and making new (international) friends. Before you know it, your study abroad program will be over and you’ll be heading back to the states. To avoid feeling like you missed out, make sure you list out everything you want to do while you’re over there before you go.

If you’re heading somewhere you’ve never been, think about the top ten things you want to do while you’re there. Use your weekends to travel as much as you can, and, of course, take more than enough photos to remember your journey for a lifetime.

3. Ask veterans of the program at your home university about their experience.

Because studying abroad can include quite the swing of culture shock, ask veterans at your home university about their experience with this certain study abroad program. They’ll know what to tell you as far as housing and details go. Your best bet to make sure your study abroad experience is a positive one is to talk to people who have been on the journey before.

If you’re not going on a school-sponsored study abroad program, and you’ve picked this out off a random website online, you might want to be careful. Oftentimes those programs aren’t figured out down to the minute detail and you get over there only to find out that half the things you need are missing. You might be less than happy about the number of details that were left out online. Protect yourself and get all the information before you start your journey.

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4. Keep an open mind.

Experiencing another culture can be tough, especially in the beginning. You’ll feel jet-lagged from traveling, overwhelmed with all the changes, and in awe that our world is so big. But before you get ahead of yourself, make sure you have a plan for how you’ll handle the anxiety and culture shock that comes with traveling. If you’re going abroad by yourself, I’d make sure you have a plan for how you’ll keep in touch with loved ones back home.

5. Travel with someone you know.

A study abroad experience is way better if you go with at least one person you know. While it’s not recommended that you stick to familiar faces throughout your trip, bringing a sense of comfort with you while you’re across the ocean could be helpful. You’ll feel much more comfortable if you take a friend along with you.

Studying abroad is no easy feat. If you’re traveling to a country where you don’t speak the language, you might feel very isolated. Additionally, taking classes overseas is much more difficult than taking courses at your home university, so you should prepare yourself to be challenged. Before you go, check with your study abroad office for tips on how to have a positive experience abroad. More than anything, your university will want to make sure you have an experience that makes you want to come back and share it with other students.

In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her pup at the dog park and binge watching Netflix with endless cups of Hot Cocoa.

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