Planning a study abroad semester or year can be overwhelming and it can be intimidating especially if this will be your first experience overseas. Ultimately each study abroad student will get out of the experience exactly what they put in. First you must choose the correct program for your needs and then get ready for a life changing experience. While preparing for time abroad, think about these habits of successful study abroad students and how you can get the most of your time overseas.
Wake Up Early
In Up with People we joke that you can catch up on sleep when you get home. During your travels, you’ll find that transportation, tours, and even the best photo opportunities kickstart early in the day.
The most successful travelers go easy on the late nights and savor early mornings to make the most of their days abroad. Remember this is a once in a lifetime experience and you don’t want to sleep through it.
No matter how much you plan your experience will hit a few detours. Things don’t work the same as they do at home and that’s part of the fun! Just don’t forget this if you become homesick. Being flexible allows you to embrace challenges and differences you are most definitely going to encounter.
Make Friends With Locals
In Up with People this is built into our program as our study abroad and gap year participants stay with host families as they travel abroad. Our participants also travel with people representing 20+ countries from around the world. But if you find yourself studying abroad and hanging out with people from your own country, branch out. It can be easy to stay within your comfort zone, but to be a successful study abroad student meet the locals!
Make Curiosity Your Friend
The more you embrace spontaneity during your time abroad the more you’ll experience. While this doesn’t mean foregoing an exercise in caution when appropriate, it does encourage a sense of curiosity and open-mindedness.
Comfort zones are made to be broken, especially during a semester abroad so remember to always be willing to try something new if it helps them immerse with a new culture.
Check Your Email
Don’t take your email with you while enjoying a travel day of course, but do stay on top of your emails especially before you depart. Many times this is the only way your host school has to communicate with you and you will need to follow up with your advisors before you depart for any important admissions or visa information.
Engage and Communicate
Successful study abroad students aim to establish relationships with their study abroad advisors, their host family / roommate, and their classmates. They also keep their families (and sometimes their study abroad providers) in the loop with their plans and travel ideas, and openly discuss their concerns and their family’s concerns well in advance of the date of departure.
Up with People counselors provide a lot of documents to our study abroad and gap year students prior to departure. Most study abroad programs do. These documents contain critical pre-departure information and are meant to help you make the transition overseas as smooth as possible. But they are only helpful if you take the time to read them. Successful study abroad students have read the majority of their documents within a month of their acceptance to a program.