Congratulations on being one of the few Americans to experience life abroad. The semester ahead of you is sure to be full of fun memories and unique cultural experiences. Before you depart, there are a few things you need to know. Follow these five tips to study abroad the right way.
Don’t Spend Your Time With Other Americans
There are some study abroad programs in which you live with Americans and take classes in English — with other Americans. At the end of the day, you have just as much cultural immersion as someone who stays in the country for a weekend at the Hilton.
Make friends with people in your host country and speak to them in their native tongue. Yes, this may be awkward at first and you might be nervous, but you’ll get better the more you practice. The best way to get the most out of the country you’re in is to leave other Americans behind you.
Never Say the Words “Weird” or “Gross”
Snails, tongue, and eyes aren’t typically found in American dishes, but they are common in some parts of the world. The worst thing you can do is shun these foods because they’re different and then locate the nearest McDonald’s.
Instead of laughing at a cultural belief or tradition, learn about it and try it yourself. Try new foods; there’s bound to be something you like in the country you’re visiting. Rejecting something because it’s not American is the quickest way to waste your experience abroad.
Worry About Money Later
You’re only in the country for a short time, so why are you worrying about money? Yes, you want to keep an eye on your finances, but living on a diet of peanut butter and never eating out is a waste.
It’s important to find a balance between spending money for a good experience and spending responsibly. When you choose a hotel, you don’t have to stay at the Ritz, but make sure you’re safe. Don’t skip museums or day trips because you don’t want to pay; you’ll regret it later.
Sleep When You Get Back
In most countries, festivals don’t end just because the sun went down. Enjoy this, and let the adrenaline of living in a foreign country keep you going. If you spent all night celebrating a local festival and don’t think you can sightsee all day, learn the power of a quick nap. Soon you will adjust and be able to function on a few hours of rest.
Don’t Let it End
If you’re reaching the end of your time abroad, but don’t want to return to your life in the States, there are options to keep traveling. You can volunteer teaching English, live the life of a nomad, or further your education. By choosing from one of the leading-edge MBA concentrations online, you can study wherever you want, whenever you want, while broadening your worldview. Both the MBA and global travel experience will appeal to employers when you do return.
However you spend your time abroad, make sure you’re doing what you want. Don’t follow other people around, because it’s your memories that you’re making. Most importantly, have fun!