So, you decided to study abroad – great! There are tons of new experiences that are waiting for you. However, you might be feeling overwhelmed or nervous about learning in an entirely new environment. The good news is that you have nothing to worry about! To help make your trip the best it can be, we’ve come up with a few tips about what you should do when you’re studying abroad.
Take advantage of learning in a different environment
One of the most rewarding things you can get out of your study abroad is the ability to experience new cultures in a way that you wouldn’t be able to in your ordinary classroom.
Chris Fiorillo, a former student at the University of Buffalo (www.buffalo.edu), studied abroad in Singapore for four months and later in Japan for 14 months. He said of his experience, “To have something learned in a classroom be reinforced on a regular basis throughout one’s daily life is extremely motivating and rewarding.”
The idea that you’re going to be learning about a foreign culture while also experiencing it at the same time is something that only study abroad students can experience. It’s important not to take for granted this unique experience and to soak up as much information as possible while you can.
Bring back something new
The opportunity to study abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so you should be looking to take something back with you that you can remember for the rest of your life. This can be a physical item, like a memento that reminds you of something significant that happened on your trip, or something that you can’t hold in your hand, like a memory or a piece of wisdom that you picked up.
For Fiorillo, that one thing he brought home was the Japanese term “KY” or “kooki wo yomenai,” which he says, “[the Japanese] apply to individuals who lack social awareness.” While not something that one might expect to be significant, Fiorillo says that this notion is something important he learned about the Japanese culture that he later applied to his experiences back home. He explains, “I like to think I picked up a little bit of this sensitivity [about social awareness] while there.” Don’t be afraid to stray off the beaten path
Study Abroad Your Own Way
When you’re around a lot of students who are in a similar situation as you, it can be easy to want to do all the same things the whole group is doing. But sometimes you might find the best experiences come from having your own game plan.
“Another student and I were kind of fed up with the touristy things that the bulk of the exchange students were doing,” said Fiorillo. “[We] decided to hop on the first bus out of Kobe [Japan]. It turns out that it was headed to a small coastal town four hours away called Tottori; famous as the inspiration for the desert-like setting in Kobo Abe’s Woman of the Dunes.” Fiorillo insists that this experience was unique to anything he would have done if he had stayed with the other group of students that day because he got to go somewhere unplanned and have an adventure within his larger study abroad experience.
The decision to study abroad is something that will stick with you for the rest of your life so make it an experience that will be worth your while! Remember to take back with you all that you learn and use this time to explore something that you would have never gotten to experience otherwise. Keep all of this in mind and you’ll be in for a great study abroad experience!
Laura Sestito is a senior at Nazareth College (www.naz.edu) and is a graphic designer and writer for NextStepU Magazine.