Whether you are studying abroad for a summer, semester, or a whole year, the time spent abroad flies by. There is nothing worse than finishing a semester wishing you had done things differently. To help you make the most of your study abroad experience, I’ve created a list of study abroad dos and don’ts based on my experiences studying abroad and my work with many students living and studying in Italy.
One of the perks of studying abroad is the ability to visit many places (relatively) cheaply. Take advantage of this opportunity to explore new countries and cultures, and knock a few destinations off of your bucket list.
Don’t: Leave Your Home Country Every Weekend
While traveling is a huge part of studying abroad, be sure to spend a few weekends in your home city, and plan some day trips all over your host country. There is nothing worse than saying you “lived” in Italy for 5 months but didn’t end up truly getting the Italian experience.
Do: Make Friends
Having a great group of friends to travel with and share memories with can really enhance any study abroad experience. If the people in your program aren’t your best friends, make an effort to get to know them, or branch out and meet some other students or locals.
Don’t: Only hang out with Americans
As the semester goes on it can become increasingly easy to only hang out with other Americans or the friends you’ve made in your program. Don’t be afraid to make friends with locals or fellow travelers. Not only can locals become lifelong friends if you keep in touch, and provide another reason to return to your host country, but they always know the best places to go and things to do, and provide insight into the culture you are being immersed in.
Do: Learn a Language
It can be easy in many countries to get by with speaking English. Whether you are traveling somewhere new for the weekend or staying in a non-English speaking country, make an effort to use the language at every chance you get.
Don’t: Only Speak English
You may feel silly at first, but not as silly as you will when you move back from France and you can’t speak a word of French. People will appreciate that you are trying, and people will appreciate that you are respecting their culture and language.
Do: Keep in touch with friends from home
Skype, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media networks are great tools for keeping in touch with friends in family. You may be busy, but a little update here and there goes a long way.
Don’t: Let homesickness get the best of you
It is not always easy being far away from home and the people who love you most, and feeling homesick is completely normal. Don’t let this feeling keep you from exploring your city, or spending hours upon hours on Skype when you could be enjoying new places.
Do: Go out and have fun
Visiting a local pub, bar, or club can be a ton of fun and is a great way to meet new people and make friends. If you aren’t a fan of drinking, tapas or the Italian aperitivo are a great way to visit these venues before they turn into late night hubs.
Don’t: Have too much fun
There is nothing worse than overindulging and getting lost in a new city, breaking your phone, or waking up with a hangover so bad that you miss out on the next day’s fun. Don’t let a night out keep you from functioning the next day.
Do: Step out of your comfort zone
Studying abroad provides the amazing opportunity to engage in a new culture, try new foods, and traditions. Don’t be afraid to try something new, even if you aren’t sure you will like it.
Don’t: Be afraid to enjoy things from home
Don’t feel guilty about having that burger when you are craving something from the US. Celebrate your favorite holidays and host a freindsgiving, or cook your favorite dishes from home and share them with friends.
Do: Record your memories
Photos, a travel journal, or a blog are all great ways of keeping track of what you did so you can go home and tell your family and friends all about your adventures. These resources can also help you plan another trip in the future. You’ll thank yourself for taking the extra step to write things down and record your experiences.
Don’t: Miss the moment
So often we end up spending forever getting the perfect photo for Instagram that we forget to relax and enjoy the moment. While recording the moment is important, the experience itself is what will ultimately last in your mind.
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What are your study abroad dos and don’ts?
You might also like these helpful posts on studying abroad:
- Study Abroad on a Budget: Top 9 Ways to Save
- Top 10 Ways to Maximize Your Time Studying Abroad
- 5 Simple Ways to Turn Your Study Abroad Experience Into A Resume Builder