How to make the most of your study abroad experience
Your international adventure is not only a chance to get to know people from a different culture, but is a rare opportunity to get to know yourself.
There is more to an international education than just studying. While school work does remain the primary focus, there are other ways you can make the most out of your study abroad experience; and these things can be just as important as the classes you take.
A simply hello can be the very thing that will lead you to new people and experiences. Introduce yourself to your classmates and really get to know your housemates. This can certainly be one of the more intimidating aspects of travelling abroad. As an American who studied in Ireland, I felt foreign from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. I was nervous to say hello, my accent was different, I felt different. But after biting the bullet and talking to people, I quickly realised I was creating this image in my head and my nerves melted away. I made lifelong friends and got to know the Irish culture in a more personal way. Being sociable can enrich your study abroad in ways you never knew were possible. Just be yourself!
I can safely say, that it was people that influenced my experience the most. I learned a lot about others and myself. Talking to people, getting to know our similarities and differences, being open, receptive and keeping a positive attitude are the very things that changed not only my experience abroad, but my life thereafter.
Step Out of The Box
Stepping out of your comfort zone can mean a lot of things. I mean, you took the leap to study abroad, why stop there? Whether it is taking an interesting class, joining an organisation or taking up a hobby, trying new things will only enhance your experience. Challenging yourself is the absolute best thing you can do. You will be amazed at the sense of accomplishment you will feel just by stepping out of your comfort zone, stretching your potential and having new experiences.
Finding A Balance
We all know student life can be taxing in more ways than one. While you should allow yourself some fun, remember to keep yourself healthy and find that balance. Your body and mind will thank you for it, believe me. Good food and exercise on a consistent basis will keep you feeling healthy, alert and on top of things! The key is to not be too hard on yourself. You are here to enjoy your experience. I like to call it the 80/20. During the week it is good to keep yourself as focused and organised as you can be, and allow yourself to let loose and enjoy the weekends! You will feel that you earned this reward, while keeping yourself on top of of your classes, and more importantly, your well being.
Immerse Yourself in Culture
Making friends in the place you are studying is absolutely priceless. Even better is when you can truly get to know the culture of your abroad destination. I made it a social priority to get to know not only Irish students, but their families and friends. I got to join them for dinners, we went to concerts, pubs, sports games and more. I truly got a first hand look into everyday life in Ireland, and how it was different to life in America. The point is, you may never get an experience like this again, so take advantage and you will never regret it.
Getting to Know Yourself
No matter what you do with your time abroad, you will undoubtedly learn a lot about yourself on this journey. Breaking down that comfort zone and getting to know people from various cultures will make you reflect on your own culture and where you came from. The differences between them are beautiful. You will see life from a whole new perspective. An abroad experience, if taken advantage of in the right way, can change you in the best ways.
So challenge yourself in classes, speak up, ask questions, join study groups or organisations. You may find strength in yourself that you didn’t know you had. Perhaps you are an undiscovered leader. There is never a better time to understand your strengths and perhaps the things that hold you back a bit. The key is to keep up the positive attitude and to simply try. Getting the most out of your study abroad experience can mean a lot of things, and you will find they all start with trying.
For more helpful advice related to studying abroad, check out our blogs.
About the Author: Merette Kennedy is an American writer and avid book lover. As a former international student, she completed her Masters Degree in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of Limerick in Ireland. She is currently residing in Boston, Massachusetts, and is in the process of completing her first fiction-based novel.