The opportunity to study abroad usually only happens once or twice in a lifetime – most commonly in high school or during your junior year of college. Whether you’re learning a foreign language, majoring in a subject relevant to your study abroad program, or just want the chance to enhance your education in another country, studying abroad can give you a new outlook on life and education.
During your travels, you will have the chance to immerse yourself in a new culture, meet lots of amazing friends from other schools and from the local area, and broaden your horizons by learning in an environment different from what you might be used to.
Study abroad programs can be inspiring, exciting, and above all: life-changing. This spring, we asked travelers from all over the world about their best experiences overseas – whether they volunteered, interned, taught, or studied abroad. Here are some of the best stories and tips from students who have embarked on study abroad programs!
Advice for Students Studying Abroad
Studying abroad is a one-of-a-kind experience for every student traveler, but there’s something you’ll always encounter regardless of where you go: and that’s the importance of communication and cultural exchange.
Ekundayo traveled from Nigeria to study in Hungary for his MPH and PhD but found that many people he met spoke very little English. “Communication became predetermined Hungarian words or Google Translate-based exchanges at the grocery store, post office, and recreational centers.”
To relate better to the locals, Ekundayo learned to speak Hungarian at a basic level, noting that “it was fun and it meant easier communication. I also learned that most Hungarians are precise, time-conscious folks who can be totally depended upon to keep their words. An almost alien concept to a young man coming from Nigeria.”
Even if you do all of your research and learn everything you can about your study abroad program before traveling overseas, some of the very best advice might just come from the students themselves.
Moriah traveled to Israel for Archaeological Field School, as well as to England for a semester abroad. “If anyone is considering studying abroad, my resounding advice is this: do it. Traveling the world allowed me to become more cultured, open-minded, and focused on global issues.”
She raved about her time abroad with both experiences and concluded that “Overall, the experiences have been amazing. I’ve stretched my body and my mind to its limits. I highly recommend all kinds of excursions for those wanting to explore who they are and have their mind opened up to the world surrounding them. It’s a decision I never regretted. Nor, do I think, will I ever.”
Looking for more tips? Here’s what a few more travelers had to say about their top advice for students who want to study abroad:
“I would recommend paying attention to the itinerary, saving up for not only the cost of the trip but also spending money, and most of all, taking it all in! Traveling abroad is an incredible opportunity and it all goes by quick!” -Amanda
“Planning, research, adaptation. …I think no matter to which country you go, without planning and a lot of research, you will have more problems than with the [coursework]. Another important point is to adapt yourself when you are living in a new country because you cannot act the same way like it is usual for you. You arrive to a new country with other cultural habits – in Brazil for example, I [found] when I greeted the people with a smile I got more help and advice.” -Alexander
“1: Don’t be afraid of any challenge you will probably find along the way; you will be able to reach all of them by making an effort.
2: Make the most of your time while living abroad. You will probably live the best experience of your life. It might not be easy at some points, but it will be worth it thanks to all the incredible people you will have the chance to meet during your stay abroad, and all the new things you will have the chance to try meanwhile. So don’t waste any of your time while you are abroad. Make always plans, learn always new things, travel a lot, discover new places, etc.
3: If possible, go alone. Going alone for such a challenging experience will make you feel more insecure at the beginning but much more proud of yourself at the end, because you were capable to deal with everything on your own. And that makes the difference.” -Adriana
“Try every food and experience offered to you at least once. You don’t have to like it, but you’ll never know if you don’t try. Pack your own medications for colds and other common aches… you’d be surprised what you cannot get in other places that is so easy to get at home, such as Tylenol, Dayquil, and Sudafed. Embrace that this trip will be different – it may be hard – but the you that comes out on the other end will be better.” -Victoria
“Put some more money aside than you possibly need. Set three certain goals with what you achieve before you come home. Trust life – something good is always around the corner, and if it is not possible, it is possible!” -Miret
“Above all, I encourage those hoping to study abroad to enter the experience without any expectation of what awaits. This is perhaps the most challenging thing you can do in this situation, but it will be the most rewarding. If you can go into this frightening and exciting adventure without expecting difference, similarities, positivity, negativity, or whatever else, you will be able to meet each new experience with an open and observant mind, which will, above all else, allow you to form an idea of a new culture that is not affected by bias.” -Quaid
Studying abroad not only can make a difference in your education but can be a wonderful way to learn more about yourself.
Rebecca traveled to Italy both during high school and college and found that the experience helped her grow as a person. “I outgrew that identity crisis, more or less figured out who I am (for now, at least), but many times, when the purpose of life has seemed so clear, it’s been when I am in Italy: laughing, eating, drinking, talking with dearly loved friends, and celebrating time for being what it is.” Lucas speaks of Italy as a place “where time, love, family, and food are held with the highest regard, and sharing all of those together is what makes everything better.”
Similarly to Rebecca, Megan found that her study abroad trip helped her grow as a person. Being outside of her comfort zone, making new friends, and finding new interests made for a truly impactful experience. “I came back to America a different person, a better person, and though I have yet to experience in America the euphoric sense that absolutely swallowed me in Dublin, I look forward to finding it again someday soon. But until the day I return, cheers Ireland, ‘tanks a million’ Dublin, and best of luck to my VDP friends. I miss you now and I’ll miss you forever. You brought me home, and for that, I am eternally grateful.”
Volunteer, Intern, Teach & Study Abroad Programs
Feeling inspired? Here are a few different organizations that you should check out if you’re interested in embarking on an experience overseas where you can travel, learn, and even make a positive difference in the places that you visit.