Are you a student considering studying abroad? Completing coursework in a foreign country can be a rewarding experience, as it allows you to increase your personal independence and your knowledge about the world in which you you live. Imagine learning another language, immersing yourself in a rich culture and meeting exciting new people. There is great value in studying abroad, as long as you do the work and planning that is necessary to make your trip successful.
First Things First
Once you have your heart set on studying abroad, you will need to determine which country you want to visit as well as long you wish to stay. In terms of length, most schools have a variety of options with programs ranging from a fews weeks to a semester to even a full year. Keep in mind the longer you stay, the more you are likely to absorb in terms of culture and language. No matter how long you stay, plan on taking a full course load so that you don’t fall behind. Also, make a return plan for your next year of classes and housing.
Find out all the details regarding the foreign college you have chosen – who the professors are, how the course credits will transfer and how much it will all cost. Make sure you have an updated passport and any notarized permission letters, etc. that may be required by the foreign college. Be prepared for lots of paperwork, however it will all be worth it in the end!
Many student programs will help you make arrangements for on campus housing. You may also want to consider staying with a host family for a unique cultural immersion experience, particularly if you want to become fluent in the language. Investigate your options – it may even be possible for you to try both, splitting your on campus stay with some months in a host home.
Preparing for Your Adventure
Now that the paperwork is done and most of your plans are set, you will need to prepare for the actual trip.
1) Familiarize yourself with the country you are visiting. This will involve some research on your part, either online, at the library or both. Read up on the language, landscape, culture, foods, customs, important facts and famous sites of the area to which you are traveling. This way you will know what to expect upon your arrival and will not be met with any unpleasant surprises. This will also help you think about what sites you want to see when you are outside of the classroom, you might even want to consider investing in a guidebook so you can take it with you on your journeys.
2) Learn the language (or at least essential phrases). If the citizens of the country you are traveling to speak another language, you may want to prepare yourself by taking some online courses or using a program like Rosetta Stone. Although learning a new language is one of the benefits of living elsewhere, it’s important to at least know the basics before you travel.
3) Pack appropriate clothing. Find out what the country’s weather is like and the type of clothing you will need while there. Besides dressing for the weather, it’s important to find out what types of clothes are considered acceptable or not in the area. While shorts and tank tops may be the norm in the United States, they are considered to be the equivalent of underwear (and thus inappropriate for outdoor wear) in some countries.
4) Make sure you have enough funds. Double check your budget and resources to make sure you will be able to afford all of the costs associated with your trip, and then plan for a little extra for emergencies and incidentals. You should also notify your bank and credit card companies that you are traveling out of the country in order to ensure you have access to money/credit and prevent your accounts from being frozen due to “unusual” transactions.
5) Check into health insurance matters to make sure you are covered abroad or have the resources to afford care. It’s also a good idea to investigate where the local (or best) doctors and hospitals are located before you leave. While hopefully you won’t have to utilize their services, but this way you won’t be left scrambling should you be faced with an emergency.
6) Consider your cell phone plan regarding cost and coverage. Although it is possible that your service provider will have plans that work overseas, they can be extremely expensive. Instead, you might want invest in a pre-paid calling card and use that to call home. Likewise, be sure to leave emergency contact phone numbers with someone you trust.
7) Prepare mentally and emotionally for being away from home, family and friends. Have a little gathering with great food and goodbyes. Bring stamps and cards with you and keep in touch with your loved ones. If you are bringing your own computer you can also keep in touch via email or even social networking sites like Facebook. You may also want to download Skype. Should homesickness crop up, this is a great way to combat it, since it will allow to you actually see your friends and family, making it feel like you never really left.
Studying abroad can be a fabulous way to move outside your comfort zone. You will have the opportunity to learn and do some amazing new things in a another land, while continuing your education. With some careful planning, you can realize your studying abroad dreams!
This was a guest post by Lindsey Wright. She is fascinated with the potential of emerging educational technologies, particularly online classes, to transform the landscape of learning. She writes about web-based learning, electronic and mobile learning, and the possible future of education.