1. Choose the right destination
There is no point whatsoever going on a study abroad experience if you have no interest in where you are. You must be passionate and excited about the destination of your study, and to get this excited, you need to be organized and know exactly what you are getting yourself into. Don’t always go for the obvious choice either. It is very easy to be complacent and just slip into the same schools that your friends or family have been to. Go somewhere you want to go, and the more different, usually the better experience you will have. It’s also important to note that just because you do not speak the local language it does not mean that you cannot attend that school. Most of these programs allow you to study the local language on arrival so this should not be a barrier at all. Choose the place you really want to go, not where other people think you should go or you will go their living the expectations of their dream.
2. Save enough money to enjoy it fully
There is no point whatsoever going on your dream exchange only not to be able to get involved with activities and trips while you are there. Make sure you “over save” and “over budget” exactly how much money you will need while you are on the exchange. Include every little expense in your budgeting as possible so you can get an accurate idea of how much money you will need. Probably a good idea to lock away your funds for the return flight aswell, because you may over spend on the trip and then realise you do not have enough money or that you have spent the money saved for the return flight. So either buy the return ticket before you go or lock it away somewhere very safe.
3. Get involved
The opportunities that will come your way while you are on your study abroad program are amazing. Be sure to make the most of these opportunities. Odds are you will not know many people when you first get to the school, but if you get involved with as many of the activities as you can then you are sure to make new best friends fast with other students. So get out of your secure and safe zone and get into the offerings that are presented to you. As a rule of thumb, say “yes” to every opportunity that is offered to you!
4. Learn some local language & lingo
It is only polite to know a little bit of the local language if you are going to be a guest in another’s country. You can buy a pocket language book or take a few classes before you go. Alternatively, you can search the net or use Google Translate to fine tune the basics of some of the language. But don’t stress too much, while you are in the country you will definitely pick up more of the language, in particular the more useful phrases.
5. Do your research on the country & city you are going to
Once again, this is only polite. You will want to know as much as you can about the place you are going so that you can get the most out of your stay. Read up about the lifestyle of the locals, the religious affiliations within certain parts of the country and the current political climate and history of the country. You will be made to look and feel extremely foolish if you are not will versed with the basics of the country you are staying at, so this one is quite important. Do your research, its not that difficult.
6. Go with an open mind
You are very likely if not certain to meet people from all over the world when you go on your study abroad program. You may not make friends with all of them, but each person and culture should still be respected. It is common for people to have prejudice against a certain country or race for no reason, and there is no room in study abroad programs for this type of bias. Best approach everything with a clean slate and an open mind.
7. Pack suitable clothes
Do the research on what the climate is going to be in your new home town. Try to cover all bases of weather as it is likely you will get a pretty even feel for both while you are there. If you are going to place that is well known for snow, be sure to take some extra warm items such as thermals and thick wool socks. You may find that it is easier and cheaper to buy these type of items once you are already in the country, so find out if this is a better option before you go stuffing every jacket and jumper you own into your suitcase.
8. Stay in touch with the people you meet
Especially after you study abroad experience has concluded, it is important to keep the friends and connections you made while you were overseas alive. With the modern developments in communication methods such as Skype, Facebook and Email, there are no excuses to not stay in touch with all the wonderful friends and people you will meet while you are on exchange. The longer you leave the communication gap, the less your connection will stay strong. So its up to you to keep the friendships alive.
9. Pass your course
With all the distractions and activities that come with doing a study abroad program, it can be easy to forget why you are actually there in the first place: To Study! This should still come first in most cases, as you do not want to fail a unit only to have to repeat it on return to your home country. On some rare occasions is may be acceptable to skip a class or fall behind in work if it involves going on a special trip with the school. But keep in mind you will need to catch up on the work you missed while you were absent from the classroom
10. Have fun
Do not take the experience for granted. Enjoy it as much as you can. These are a once in a lifetime trips that you can generally only enjoy while you are a student, so make the most of it. Do not let the little things get you down, just think how lucky you are to be in a study broad program and how great the memories will be for the rest of your life.