No matter how long your study abroad experience is, it will likely fly by. There is going to be a lot that you’ll want to do and see, and it will probably more than you are able to do.
What can you do to get the most out of your experience abroad?
Learn the language. Regardless of how long you are going, or whether or not your program requires it, take some time to learn the basics of the language – how to say hello, good-bye, thank you, please, etc. There are so many apps that offer language lessons, often at no cost to the user. Take advantage of them!
Revisit your goals for the program. We told you those goals would come up again. It can be easy to get swept up in what other people on the program want to do. Remember: this is your experience. Maybe your group is really into nightlife, but you aren’t. Or they’re jazzed about staying in your host city, but you were hoping to travel more. Look for fellow students with similar goals, interests, budget, etc. as yours.
Setting goals for yourself and checking in on those goals can help you prioritize the experiences that take up your time while abroad.
Invest in your coursework. We’ve talked a lot about outside of the classroom experiences so far, but don’t forget about your coursework. The classes that you take are going to give you insight and understanding into your host country and culture – take advantage of this!
Invest in self-care. All too often, we see that students run themselves ragged with weekend travel, going out at night, and cramming for tests and papers. Self-care is incredibly important – taking time to rest, reflect, exercise, and otherwise keep yourself healthy will greatly enhance your experience.
Don’t live life behind your camera. “While I was in Spain, I took about 4,000 pictures in 4 months. Eight years later, there are about a dozen pictures that I look back on that are the most important to me – I haven’t looked at the rest since about a month after I came home. I think I spent too much time worrying about documenting every single moment rather than being present.” – Brice, Senior Program Manager, on his time in Spain
You’ll want to document everything you see – post it on Instagram, Snapchat it, Facebook, etc. And that’s fine – just don’t spend so much time looking at your phone that you don’t take in what’s around you.