Studying abroad can be the adventure of a lifetime and will certainly be an experience you will remember forever. However, moving to a new country and school, surrounded by new people and environments can bring about unexpected challenges and moments of uncertainty. Good planning can reduce the stress in studying abroad and make the adventure even more enjoyable. While planning my trip, I learned a few essential ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ that I would like to pass on for those who are studying abroad and may not know where to start. While much of this may seem obvious to some, it can be very new to those who, like me, don’t have family who have experienced college and/or studying abroad to guide them.
• DO Plan, Plan, Plan!
• DON’T Have too much of the “I’ll see when I get there” mindset
⟹ Planning is important for all students, and is especially relevant for first-generation study abroad students. While your study abroad program and school office are excellent resources to guide you, there are many aspects of studying abroad that you must plan for independently. Waiting until you are settling into a new country, school, and cultural environment can be a tricky time to plan for class schedules, school events, extra travel, and other important things. You can’t plan every second of your time abroad, but planning for things that are important to you can help make sure you don’t miss out on your must-do plans. Also, budgeting time for your studies can be essential to keeping your grades up. Be spontaneous and leave room for loads of fun, but also be mindful that your time abroad can pass by in a flash, so make the most of it.
• DO Save and Budget
• DON’T Expect financial aid to cover every expense
⟹ Your study abroad office may be helpful in allocating your financial aid, and you may receive additional scholarships for your program, but don’t be caught off guard by out-of-pocket expenses that may arise. Also, be sure to track your disbursement dates to ensure that all of your fees will be paid on time and that other necessary bookings will be made early in your prior term. Create a detailed budget and ensure that you will have enough funds to not only cover school fees and flights, but also to cover things like food, toiletries, textbooks, phone plans, souvenirs, and so much more when you arrive. Also, be sure to look into your host country’s currency and cost of living; you may be taking a lot more or less money with you than you think!
• DO Go to Class/Study
• DON’T Forget you are there for school
⟹ Studying abroad is all about seeing new places, meeting new people, learning from and interacting with different cultures, and having an adventure of a lifetime. Studying abroad is also about, if not most importantly, studying and experiencing the life of college students overseas. Make awesome plans for weekend trips and nights out on the town, but don’t sacrifice your studies and make the end of your term about playing catch-up. We all want to graduate college and get our degree with many memories and unforgettable experiences, but we should all also put our best foot forward and show that it is possible to exhibit academic excellence even while overseas at a new university. Be sure to look into attendance requirements, different grading scales and policies, and take note on how your semester abroad will affect your GPA.
There are so many more important things to studying abroad for the first time, but I would definitely rank these points as my top pieces of advice. By planning your trip properly, budgeting your money well, and staying on top of your studies, your trip abroad is sure to be one for the memory books. As always, have fun, take pictures, and be safe! A very good luck to all of you who will be studying abroad!