For many students, studying abroad is one of the most memorable experiences of those college years. You’ll make lifelong friends, visit places you’ve never imaged going, and eat food you could only dream of. However, no matter where you go, there are mishaps to be made. These mistakes are usually common ones that can easily be avoided, so follow these easy guidelines for a truly spectacular experience!
Avoid the “foreign 15”:
When studying abroad, it’s hard to say no to yummy high caloric, carb-rich foods. But why say no to food? It’s part of the journey! But gaining up to 15 pounds in four months doesn’t have to be part of the experience. Be sure to walk everywhere; you’ll burn off calories while exploring a new place and your new home. Try to eat in some times; if you’re doing a homestay, it will be easier not to over-eat and not to snack. Go grocery shopping and pick out healthier foods instead of eating a chocolate croissant or cheese platter every day. Eat everything in moderation, and don’t completely avoid delicious yet fattening foods—this way, you’ll be able to satisfy cravings but limit yourself.
Don’t forget to Absorb the culture around you:
Many students go abroad and never leave their American circle of friends or visit one museum. This is a huge mistake. Do immerse yourself in the culture you’re living in as much as possible. Try to pick up on the language of the country. If you spend five months in Italy, and you walk away learning only to say “ciao” and “grazie,” you’ll really regret it. By mingling with locals and even watching foreign TV, you’ll be able to pick up some of the language and impress everyone back home. Be sure to avoid American bars, because you can go to American bars when you’re back home in America. Also, don’t be afraid to try new things! Food is one of the most important parts of studying abroad, so try new things and experiment with foods you may not be able to get anywhere else. And be sure to book a weekend trip to some place you would have never gone to otherwise.
Don’t completely abandon your schoolwork:
Schoolwork is never a top priority for students studying abroad. It might not be your #1 priority, but don’t completely give up. You don’t want to get horrible grades and lower your GPA. If you’re thinking of going to grad school, then you may need to focus a little more on your grades. You don’t need straight A’s, you just need to put in effort. You can have fun and work, too—you don’t have to decide on one or the other.
Focus on the present:
Don’t get absorbed in the drama that’s going on with your friends at home! If there are issues in your friend-group from your hometown or back on campus, walk away. Often times, being on Twitter and Facebook can bring you into that drama. You don’t need to deal with problems that are thousands of miles away. You only have a handful of months studying abroad; so don’t focus on problems that don’t directly involve you at the moment. Your world at home and on campus will be waiting for you when you are done, so focus on the present.
Budget your money:
Many students blow their budget too early, leaving the end of their study abroad experience with little – to no money. Studying abroad is expensive, so make a budget before leaving for the semester. If you have a weekly budget for all expenses, and you follow it, you’ll go home not having to worry about where all your money went.
Don’t drink too much:
Drinking too much is a very common mistake for students studying abroad. American students often drink too much when studying abroad because the drinking age is lower than in America. There is no reason you need to be pounding shots and getting too drunk. Drinking is a part of many cultures, and there is no reason to avoid enjoying that, but don’t be an obnoxious drunk. By getting too drunk, you put yourself at risk, and you will look like a fool.
All this being said, if your college or university offers any sort of study abroad program, I highly recommend it. You’ll have the time of your life, but you’ll need to be smart too. No matter where you go or what you do, studying abroad will change your life.