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Tips For College Students Studying Abroad

We consulted our expert, a three time veteran educational traveler and asked for her top ten tips for students planning to study abroad. Here they are:

1) Living abroad is harder than you think. Try to remain flexible. You will be functioning in a different culture with conventions and expectations that you are not familiar with. It's up to you to get along. By accepting what happens around you and to you with tolerance and a sense of humor, you will be on your way to having a positive, possibly life changing experience.

2) Your real family isn't perfect. Don't expect your host family to be either. You hope they will accept you as you are. Return the favor.

3) Take advantage of any and all opportunities to interact with the natives. It's tempting to hole up in your room, feeling overwhelmed. The more you meet and talk with people, the more comfortable you will feel and the easier it will be to get along. The hardest part of the getting acclimated process is at the beginning.

4) Don't neglect the cultural attractions. Go to those plays, concerts, museums, monuments, gardens, cathedrals etc. You'll regret it later if you spent a summer, semester or a year abroad and never made it to the ballet.

5) Some of your best memories of your Study Abroad experience will be of trips you take on weekends and during semester breaks. Look for student rates on air and rail transport. Take advantage of the optional tours offered by your program. Go off on your own or with a friend if the situation permits.

6) Pack carefully using the guidelines your program provides. Choose only clothing that you can mix and match together. Weight limitations mean that you will be wearing the same things over and over. Expect colder temperatures than you are used to in schools and homes when the outside temp falls and plan accordingly. Don't take your best clothes and gear with you. Instead pack things that you don't necessarily want to bring back.

7) Speak the language as much as possible with your hosts and fellow students. They might be fluent English speakers, but insist on using the local lingo. That's the best way to polish your language skills. Watch local television. You will be surprised at how much you'll pick up and retain.

8) You will probably want to make a large purchase like a coat or a cell phone. Ask your hosts where to find the best deals and how best to judge quality.

9) Markets are great places to shop. They are also good places to learn about local cuisine, products, currency values and your host country's way of life. Don't be shy about bargaining for a product you like. In most areas of the world this is expected.

10) School is going to be different than you are used to. You might feel that the way you were brought up in is more logical, more academically oriented or just plain better. You might even be right but in the long run it is better to do the work as it is presented. And do not make the mistake of insisting that the American way is best.


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