Tips for Making the Most of Your Study Abroad Experience

There are few opportunities in college that can have the lifelong effect of studying abroad. If you ask those who took advantage of their school’s study abroad program one, two, three, or more decades ago, they likely still recall it fondly and can tell you how it changed them, often affecting their career choice and opportunities as well. Whether you go with a school-sponsored program or strike out on your own and enroll directly in a foreign university, the tips below can help you make the most of the experience.

Don’t Let Money Stop You

College is expensive enough. Add the cost of a semester or a year abroad and the bills can go even higher. However, this isn’t always the case. Some schools have an arrangement with a foreign university that allows you to pay your regular tuition. The fees for international students at some foreign universities may be comparable to what you’re already paying. In addition, you may be able to cover these costs with student loans. Keep in mind as well that when you graduate, you might be able to get more favorable terms and a lower monthly payment on your student loans by refinancing them. The bottom line is that you shouldn’t shut yourself out of this experience because of concern about cost.

Hang Out with the Locals

Don’t spend most of your time with students from your own country. This can be tempting because living abroad can be stressful, particularly if there is a language barrier. But if you take the easy route, you will really insulate yourself from the most rewarding aspects of this experience.

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Take Risks

To expand on the point above, take risks. That doesn’t mean you should do things that are dangerous, but you should absolutely get out of your comfort zone. This might mean trying to speak with people in a language you aren’t too proficient at or taking part in an activity you aren’t necessarily good at.

Set Goals

Your study abroad should not be all work and no play, but you will get more out of the experience if you do some thinking ahead of time about what you want to get out of it. You may want to improve your language skills, better understand another culture or pick up skills that will help you in an international career.

Be Flexible

Goals are great, but don’t let them make you approach this in a rigid way. If there were one single piece of advice for you to take to heart that would let you have the best experience possible, be flexible is probably it. If you don’t think of yourself as a very flexible person, living and studying in another country is a fantastic way to develop this quality quickly. You’ll often be facing challenges that require you to change course, think on your feet or relax your way of doing things. You’ll also have a better time in general if you can learn to roll with the unexpected.

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