Studying abroad is certainly a life-changing experience, and offers many valuable learning opportunities – not just in academics, but also in various life skills! Here’s how you should get the most out of your study abroad trip.
Organise before you leave!
Don’t leave your paperwork till the last minute. Keep all the valuable documents in one place so that you do not have to search: passport, visa, financial documentation, health insurance, study transcripts, your offer letter and I 20, tickets and any other papers you need to carry. Is someone picking you up on arrival? How will the weather be when you reach? If in doubt, wear layers of clothing- if it’s hotter than expected you can remove a layer or two. Where will you be staying? Do you need to organise a mattress, kitchen items, sheets?
Have a study plan in mind
It goes without saying that you should have a proper educational goal in place. As you work toward your dream degree, you can also learn a new language, take a scuba diving course or try your hand at some drama classes. Stay focussed on your major, but do explore different courses while you are at it! Steve Jobs is said to have undertaken calligraphy classes during his short undergraduate tenure; the art appreciation he got from this course made him look to create beautiful forms in Apple products.
Learn about the local culture
You can read up on the local culture, cuisine, music and dance before you actually land up, so you will feel that you already have a connection with your new surroundings. Check up on current events and be clued in on what is happening around you! When you arrive, you can ask your host family to bring you up to speed with local events and be a part of the local scene.
Soak in new experiences
While you should definitely be focussed on your studies, make sure you try out a lot of new experiences as well. Explore the countryside around you, go on hikes and adventure trails, and sign up for cooking classes or theatre experiences. There are so many life skills that can be learnt outside the classroom as well.
Are you homesick?
If it’s your first time away from home, chances are that you will be badly homesick at least for the first month or so. Be assured that this will soon pass. With the connectivity we have nowadays, staying in touch with your family and friends back home should not be difficult. Call, write and chat as often as you would like. Keep yourself busy and once your classes kick in,you will be able to cope with the homesickness very quickly!
Keep an eye on your budget
You should never start converting prices to your currency back home, as then you may end up tormenting yourself over the price of even a loaf of bread! Keep an eye on your spending though, and be aware of how much you can afford to spend on food, transport and essentials. You can always try to find a part-time job, if you need the extra money and do have the time. Your language skills will improve and you will be able to widen your circle of friends in the bargain.
The more friends you make, the more you will enjoy your time abroad. Having local friends will help you make inroads into the local culture, festivals and sports. Do not restrict yourself to making friends only with people from your own country.
Your primary reason for this trip abroad is to study- so make sure that you excel in your courses! Make use of all available infrastructure, such as student forums, libraries and online resources, to get good grades. Students who come out at the top of their class get the best career opportunities as well, and the effort you put in now will stand you in good stead the rest of your life!