Making the Most of Your Time Abroad

Now that you’re there, the reading, film-watching, and other research you did beforehand is paying off. You can have intelligent conversations about local issues with professors, your homestay family, students in your classes, and others from your host country. These are a few tips for staying on top of your game while you’re abroad.

  1. Spend as much time as possible with locals. Your homestay family and students from your university courses are two of the easiest groups with whom to interact, but there are lots of other ways to get involved in the local community. Many students join a local sports club or team, take art or music classes apart from their program, teach English at a nearby school, or sign up to do volunteer work at a hospital or home for the elderly.

  2. Limit the amount of time you spend on the phone and email with friends and family from home. The more time you spend with them, the less you invest in the local community and the experience you’re otherwise in the middle of having.

  3. Choose local restaurants, films made in country, literature and magazines from host-country writers, and other non-imported cultural activities.

  4. Turn off the television and go out. For the price of a slowly-savored coffee or local pastry, you can spend at least an hour people-watching in a local café.

  5. Visit museums. It’s often worthwhile to go with a guide (book or person), both to learn about the art or history highlighted in the museum and to consider the difference between how such information might be presented by a local or an outsider. If you have an ISIC (International Student Identification Card), it will often get you a discounted entrance, and many museums have lower prices on certain days of the week.

  6. If you’re going to travel, stay within your host country and get to know it in depth. It’s tempting to travel throughout the region, especially if you have friends studying in countries nearby, but long-distance trips for short times can be exhausting, so you might want to save such travels for breaks between semesters, summer, or mid-term program/university vacations. Avoid traveling alone, especially at night or if you are female, and be sure your program director and parents know how to reach you while you’re away from your home base.

  7. This is your mother speaking: get enough rest, eat healthfully, and don’t spend so much time (and money) drinking that hangovers get in the way of your exploring and experiencing your host country. Too many late nights, not enough solid nutrition, or too much alcohol can really slow you down, not to mention leave you susceptible to serious illness and other risks.

  8. Continue to read local newspapers or listen to the radio. It’s important to stay abreast of local and national political, health, weather, and safety conditions, as well as international news.

  9. Consider this article