Summer is just around the corner and many of you are planning on going on your first study abroad trip. We’re sure it’ll be epic, but it’s only natural to be a bit anxious and have a question or two about heading overseas and experiencing life in a new country as well. To help you prepare (and feel more comfortable and confident), here are a few things you should keep in mind:
1. Say yes!
First off – say yes to the experience itself. If you’re dreaming of studying abroad during the summer and meeting likeminded people from all over the world, make sure it happens. That’s the first step. Once you’re there, every day will be packed with new experiences, but it’s up to you to make the most of them. So, if you’re not sure an activity is for you, just say yes. Approach it with an open mind and leave with no regrets.
2. Embrace the differences
New routine. Unfamiliar food. Unpredictable weather. A lot will be different from your home comforts, but it’s important to view these differences with an inquisitive and positive mind – after all, they are part of the study abroad experience: By embracing the “weirdness,” and the “newness” of it all you’ll discover what makes your host country so special. You might even learn a thing or two about yourself in the process.
3. Cope with homesickness like a boss
It’s only natural to miss home comforts, and feeling a little homesick happens to practically everyone – even the most seasoned travelers. The trick is to focus on the present: Hang out with friends, do things you enjoy, and chat with teachers or your host family if you really struggle. (Or simply read this blog post – it provides some invaluable tips as well.)
4. Ask questions
Don’t hold back. Every question you ask about life in your destination will increase your understanding of the culture. Why do the British love cups of tea? Why don’t Italians drink cappuccinos after 10 a.m.? What actually is a Weisswurst?! Don’t leave without finding out. Google can help, but so can the staff at your school.
5. Speak the local lingo
Asking questions is an important step to getting to know your host country, but asking those questions in the native language will help you connect with the destination on a deeper level – and this is one of the biggest benefits of studying abroad. Every interaction you have in your language of study will boost your fluency and make you feel more at home.
6. Learn about local customs
Local greetings and humor are just some of the customs that can catch visitors out. Learning how to avoid the most common cultural faux pas before you depart and observing people and asking questions while you’re abroad will get you ahead of the game and again, give you a sense of having found a home away from home.
7. Be present (and put down that phone)
Letting your friends and family know what an awesome time you’re having is an important part of your trip. But spending too much time on your phone will mean that you miss the world unfolding around you. Get off your phone and talk to your new friends/host family/teachers as much as you can. Be present for them and for every new situation you find yourself in. What you exprience in real life – particularly when you’re in a new city and a new country – will be so much more valuable and meaningful than any scroll on Instagram or Snapchat (that stuff can wait!).