Studying abroad, if you can make it happen, can be a wonderful, rewarding experience on a couple different fronts.
For starters, on more of a personal level, you're getting the chance to travel to another part of the world and take in some great sightseeing and attractions, along with another culture and all it has to offer - cuisine, language, music, customs, etc. You may make a few lifelong friends from the country you're visiting. In any case, there's no doubt you'll be making memories that will stay with you for life.
On more of a professional level, you're also setting yourself up nicely to stand out from the competition in the employment market. What an incredible, unique experience to be able to discuss and showcase on your resume. And if you picked up some solid language skills along the way, even better. The ability to write and speak in another language should have its own section on your resume. And let's not forget about all of the wonderful networking opportunities that can come out of this experience, either. The teachers, professors, other students, and local professionals that you'll be working with and getting to know during your time abroad can come to serve as valuable connections that can help you open many doors to professional opportunities.
So, without further ado, let's get into our guide and discussion on studying abroad. We'll begin by exploring strategies to help you select the right school for you. Next, we'll look at ways to help in striking that critical balance between staying on task when it comes to studying, and having fun. Finally, we'll discuss a few tips to help you stay in touch with your loved ones back home.
Preparing for your study abroad experience: Choosing the right school
Studying abroad is an experience like no other. Not only do international schools set the stage for unique character building moments, but they can also provide the perfect environment for fostering a student's independence and maturity. To reap the full benefits of studying abroad, however, each student must choose the school that is right for them, which isn't always the easiest thing to do.
To help make the process a little easier, here are some questions that, when answered, will help you identify your perfect school:
- What do you hope to get out of your overall experience?
- How long do you want to study abroad?
- Which countries interest you most?
- Do you have a specific course or language you'd like to study?
- Are you more drawn to urban or rural settings?
- Do you prefer larger institutions or smaller, more intimate schools?
- Would you prefer a school that handles all the planning for its students or one where students take the initiative in most areas?
Now, before ruling out any schools, there are certain considerations that should be explored. A major factor you'll need to consider is the total cost of each study abroad program. Remember, different programs cost different amounts of money, and the full cost of studying abroad isn't always straightforward. Before deciding on a school, always check if the stated fees include the cost of housing, food, and extracurricular excursions. If such fees are not included, then your adventure will likely cost far more than the advertised price.
Before applying to any schools, you'll also need to check if your chosen program has any requirements for joining. Must students meet certain academic grade requirements to be welcomed into the program? Perhaps there are prerequisite courses that must be completed before you'll be granted admission. Certain schools also have language requirements that need to be met before enrollment can be finalized. To avoid wasting your time applying for programs that you aren't yet qualified for, always consult each program's list of requirements before filling out its corresponding application.
In the end, no matter which schools you are considering, it's important that you thoroughly research your options so that you fully understand what to expect if you are accepted to a study abroad program. Studying abroad is a big commitment, so always research ahead of time and talk with your family, friends, and academic advisor about any concerns you may have. By choosing the right school before you leave, you can maximize the benefits of your overall study abroad experience.
The importance of balancing work and play while studying abroad
Though studying abroad opens the door to many new and exciting adventures, it's important to remember that your education is also a priority. That's why, to have a truly successful experience while studying abroad, you'll need to balance work and play while you're away. Unfortunately, achieving the delicate balance between work and play isn't always the easiest thing to accomplish, especially for students without a parent or guardian nearby to help keep them on track. In such cases, you'll have to take it upon yourself to achieve your goals both inside and outside of the classroom.
So, to help you maintain a balance between work and play while studying abroad, here are four tips for staying focused on your studies, followed by another two tips for becoming a more efficient adventurer.
Tips for staying focused on your studies:
1. Pay close attention to your class schedule.
Your class schedule specifies when you should be in class, so don't use valuable class time to participate in non-school activities. Remember that your priority is to learn and to do so, you must attend the classes.
2. Keep track of school work and assignments.
Using a day planner, keep track of any upcoming tests and assignments you have due. This will help you stay on top of your course work so you can meet your deadlines.
3. Create a study plan.
Using your class schedule and day planner, create a study plan and stick to it. Do remember to schedule some time for adventure between study sessions however, because otherwise, you might as well have stayed home.
4. Find a study partner.
A study partner can help you stay focused on your studies, especially during times when you are feeling less than studious. Don't forget to return the favor if your partner needs some extra motivation, as well.
Tips for becoming a more efficient adventurer:
1. Prioritize the adventures that are most important to you.
There's likely a long list of things you'd like to see and do before returning home. While you probably won't have time to experience everything your host country has to offer, make sure to prioritize the things you'd most like to see and do before you leave. That way, you won't miss out on the attractions that are most important to you.
2. Think ahead.
Spontaneity can be great, but it can also cause you to spend more time than expected waiting in lines. Instead of making last-minute plans, think about your adventures in advance so you can make any needed reservations or pre-order any tickets or passes your adventures will require. A little preparation beforehand may allow you to bypass certain lines, so you can more efficiently explore your host country.
Studying abroad is a great way to expand your horizons, but to have a truly successful experience, it is necessary to balance both work and play. The problem is, when surrounded by so many new things to see and do, maintaining a satisfactory balance can be difficult. By adhering to the previously listed suggestions, however, you can prioritize your studies without having to forgo your most anticipated travel adventures.
How to keep in touch with loved ones at home while studying abroad
Whether it's just for a semester or for several years, there's no doubt that it can be hard being away from loved ones while studying abroad. Just because you happen to be in a different part of the world than your family and friends, however, doesn't mean you are ever truly alone. By making the effort to stay in contact with your family and friends while you are away, you can still feel connected to the people you care about, while enjoying the benefits from having the support of those who care about you.
Now, because keeping in touch with loved ones while studying abroad isn't always the easiest thing to do, certain actions should be taken before leaving to ease communication efforts while you are away. By taking such actions, you can eliminate many common communication obstacles faced by students who study abroad.
One common obstacle that can hinder communication efforts is a lack of Internet connectivity. Before leaving, determine whether Internet access will be available at your residence and, if not, consider purchasing a portable Wi-Fi hotspot device to aide in online communications. Having access to the Internet will allow you to easily connect with loved ones through e-mail or on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
For times when Internet communications won't be an option, you'll need to find alternative ways to keep in touch, like over the phone or through the postal service with letters or postcards. If you plan to keep in touch with loved ones over the phone, keep in mind that without a decent contract, your phone bills could get out of hand. Before leaving, consider mitigating costs by purchasing an international roaming package from your cell phone provider or some international calling cards.
No matter how you'll be communicating, whether it be through e-mail, over the phone, or through the postal service, remember to bring the corresponding e-mail addresses, phone numbers, or mailing addresses for the people you plan to contact while you're away. If you'll be communicating through programs like Skype or FaceTime, consider setting everyone up with the required software before you go - especially people who aren't tech savvy.
Because it can be hard to schedule real-time conversations when conversing across time zones, consult with your family and friends about scheduling daily or weekly check-ins at agreed-upon times. If the time differences are too extreme and you are unable to find a time that works for all parties, consider exchanging voice or video messages, as they can always be played later when it's more convenient.
Also, it's worth noting that because everyone's going to want to hear all about your adventures, you'll likely be repeating yourself many times. To limit the number of times you'll have to tell the same stories to your family and friends, consider sharing some of your experiences on a personal blog or through social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Google Hangouts can also be useful in this regard, as it lets you communicate with several people at once, cutting down on the number of times you'll need to repeat yourself.
Though keeping in touch with loved ones isn't the easiest thing to do while studying abroad, there are, thankfully, several communication methods you can try which could potentially connect you with your family and friends back home. Regardless of which methods you end up choosing, however, remember to make the necessary preparations beforehand, so you'll have an easier time communicating with loved ones until you can return home.