Making the most of your time abroad requires:
- Knowledge about cultural norms, values, and issues
- Flexibility to adapt to new situations
- Open-mindedness to new values
- Resourcefulness, problem-solving skills, and culturally appropriate people skills
- Taking time to reflect on your experiences
Studies have shown that to make the most of your experience, you need to both immerse yourself in a culture and take time to reflect on what you are learning.
Here are some tips to help you make the most of your time abroad.
The more you know, the more you see.
Your study abroad experience will be richer if you have taken the time to learn about the culture before arriving. There are cultural markers hidden to tourists that shine through when you begin to learn about a culture’s past, present, and future. You’ll be amazed at how much more clearly you can see a place and its people.
Engage with locals. Find a mentor.
Some of the richest and most meaningful lessons that you will learn abroad will be through interactions with locals and other foreigners.
Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Interact with others whose understanding of the world may be greatly different than your own. Connecting and interacting with locals, especially a good friend who knows the culture well, will help guide you through your confusions and doubts.
You will face many challenges when going abroad. You will be challenged on a daily basis to accept new habits and attitudes. When you allow yourself to accept these differences with openness and without judgment, you can begin to see how easily someone’s world view can be so different from your own.
Some last words of advice:
- Write. Reflect on your time abroad.
- Travel within your chosen country.
- Prepare with a basic understanding of your country’s language.
- Live in your local time zone.