So, you’ve made the grades and got into your choice university overseas, you’ve made the necessary visa arrangements and spent countless hours Googling all you need to know to ensure your study abroad experience runs smoothly.
But now you’ve got the serious stuff out the way – like sorting out your bank accounts and student accommodation – and have a moment to take a breather, you might well wonder how exactly can I make the most out of my study abroad experience?
For many, studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that means investing a big chunk of money saved over a period of years – or years of hard work that culminated in a scholarship – and they want to make the most of their time abroad.
Here are some ideas to make the most of it:
Set goals for yourself
Studying and navigating your way in a foreign country, as well as getting used to new cultures, accents and foods is undoubtedly daunting. But rather than letting fear and anxiety hold you back, remember that you’re in a new place where nobody knows you.
Don’t feel too self-conscious to do things once you get there, such as taking ‘corny’ pictures in places the locals take for granted, striking up conversations with people to improve your command of the local language or even walking around rather than taking the bus so you can soak up the landscapes.
Put yourself out there – set goals for yourself on things you’d like to do so you won’t have a sense of regret once it’s time to leave.
Volunteering is not only a great way to do some good, it’s also a great way to network and build your skills outside the classroom.
By volunteering, you’ll come into contact with locals from diverse backgrounds, encouraging you to keep an open mind about people, learn about their social mores and become a global citizen, a crucial skill in our increasingly interconnected world.
According to research, people who spend their money on experiences rather than material things are happier. However, this doesn’t mean spending beyond your means and blowing money at the pub or splashing out on shiny new gadgets.
Instead, why not consider travelling – if your budget permits it – before you graduate and get stuck in a rut of work and commitments?
For example, if you’re studying in Europe, travelling to neighbouring countries can be relatively affordable. You may want to make the most out of your time abroad by saving diligently so you can travel with your friends during your semester breaks.
It’s tempting to only socialise with students from your native country as there’s comfort in familiarity. After all, you’ll feel less overwhelmed when in the presence of others who speak the same language as you, who share similar cultures and relate to the things.
One thing that can make your study abroad experience more fulfilling is connecting with local and other international students to improve your understanding of other cultures and viewpoints but who knows – you may also make a friend for life.
So join more societies, say ‘Hello’ to the classmate sat next to you and attend more events. No one said making friends is easy, but the effort will be worth it.