Do's and Dont's for Education Abroad

Author: Alissa Ward

When going abroad there are so many aspects to think about. I understand the craze of being a student and have created some guidelines for do’s and don’t while abroad that I found applicable and hopefully you will to.

 

Do:

1. Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Going abroad and participating in the educational aspects is the most important part of your study abroad, but can be heightened when you step outside of your comfort zone both on and off campus. Try attending all of the exchange student events that your host university puts on, allowing you to meet new friends and create a support system shortly after your arrival. Try new foods, and explore the city you are in. You may learn so much more about the country you are in simply by wandering down the street you always walk down, but never took the time to notice the history embedded in the storefronts. For myself and a few others on the field school, we found inexpensive walking tours in many of the cities that ended up providing us with more content related to our studies, given the culture significance of wine within France, in addition to learning about the city.

 

2. Indulge in the Various Cultures

When abroad, you will be subject to a minimum of one new culture, that of your host country. However, make the most out of your education abroad and learn about all of your new friends who are also on exchange and their cultures as well. Befriending a local will certainly help in allowing you to further understand the language, norms, and traditions associated with the culture that you are in, which can be applied to your studies. As we were moving from city to city after only a few days, this was a bit difficult, but in one of the cities, we had a guide who toured us through many of the wine regions, during our bus rides with him aboard, we would ask many questions about the culture he grew up in and recognized how it differed from my own. Having an open-mind to different cultures and being able to communicate cross-culturally may allow you to broaden your perspectives and apply this new insight into your studies, just as it did for me.

 

3. Create a School-Life Balance

Creating a school-life balance will be essential to ensure your studies get the attention they deserve, while you also give yourself time to appreciate the experience you are on. Dedicated specific time blocks for classes and homework, will allow you to better assess how much free time you will actually have and decide how you want to spend this additional time. This is what I did while in France, giving myself a few hours each night to work on assignments before going to wander the streets. By doing my homework before going out, I had something to look forward to after finishing the assignment, giving me motivation to be effective in the time I was working on the assignments, not wasting time on my phone.

Don’t:

1. Have a Fear of Missing Out

Although your fear of missing out on events that your friends and family back home are participating in, don’t let this affect your education abroad experience. When you are constantly looking at the fun your friends are having back home, you may not want to experience the city you are in and that would be an incredible shame. Don’t let FOMO stop you from making new memories with new friends.  Trying to stay updated on what your friends are constantly doing back home can create homesickness.

 

2. Put up Barriers

As frightening as the experience may be initially, avoid putting up barriers. If you can’t find your way around the new city, try not to retreat to your phone for directions and then spend the evening calling your friends back home and telling them about how your experience hasn’t been what you expected at all. Trying asking a local passerby, explain your situation, and allow them to help you, you may be surprised by their generosity and willingness to help you. They may even give you some local tips for great places to eat, activities to participate in, or information that support your studies as was common for myself on my Wine Management field school.

 

3. Do Everything as a Group

Allow yourself time to unwind alone and discover new places on your own, while learning more about yourself. As exciting as it is, sharing new places with other people, reflecting on the beauty alone allows you to spend as much or little time there as you would like without having to wait on or be waited on. As an introvert, I am more than outgoing, but find I need time to be alone in order to recharge or else I run the risk of burnout. Given the 18 day time frame of our field school, it was close quarters with the other student participants, but our field school was designed to have the opportunity for us to split up, in order to allow students, such as myself, who needed time to recharge to do so. Safety is definitely a concern when opting to go off on your own, and this I decided to avoid when leaving the hotel, but found spots within the hotel that I could go to alone and recharge!

 

4. Treat it Like a Vacation

Although there may be many benefits to your education abroad, your education should be your focal point. This is not to say you shouldn’t explore where you are or attend a concert, but keep in mind you are representing your faculty. You’ll want your faculty to know that you were involved in the culture and your studies. For myself, the field school was before the additional 3.5 weeks I would be taking to travel throughout Europe with two close friends. This provided me the motivation to work on my studies and have them finished in time for the real vacation I would be having after. Although not everyone has the opportunity to travel before or after their education abroad, ensuring that you dedicate the necessary time to your studies is vital to gain the most out of your education.

 

Hopefully these do’s and don’ts will help you transition with your education abroad experience!

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