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Preparing for your Experience Studying Abroad

You heard it from the moment you decided to go to college until you stepped on campus for the first time, but the message remains true beyond freshman orientation. Your experience in college is what you make of it.

College, for many, is a time of transition and self discovery. For students seeking fulfilling, life changing experiences during their undergraduate careers, studying abroad is a popular option. Traveling during this time allows students the unique chance to explore the world and other cultures while finding themselves at the same time.

Preparing for a trip abroad can seem daunting, as there is more to do than simply printing out the itinerary and packing a bag. One good thing about studying abroad while in college is that you will often get information from whoever is sponsoring your trip as to what to arrange before getting on a plane. Whether you go through an affiliate program or through your university directly, you will more than likely be guided through the process of filling out paperwork and paying deposits.

The truth is, figuring out the logistics of your trip abroad is not the only preparation necessary. Studying abroad is exposure to not only another country, but another way of life, which can be shocking if you do not brace yourself to come across new things. Depending on where you travel, you may have to adjust your daily routine or the way you bathe and eat. The best way to do this is to research the country you are going to specifically. If you can, look at pictures of where you will be staying and talk to students who have traveled to that country before to gain different perspectives.

One of the most important plans you can make for time abroad is a plan involving yourself, more specifically, a plan regarding your goals for and feelings towards your trip. Hopefully you know what you hope to gain from your study abroad experience, but also ask yourself how you will approach living in a new place and being surrounded by unfamiliarity. If your trip is a semester or two long, focus on how you will deal with homesickness. Figure out the postal system before you leave if you wish to write home at some point.

Studying abroad is undoubtedly an exciting adventure, and you can make your trip even more fulfilling by focusing on approaching issues while you are there with an open mind. You might be challenged by a language or cultural barrier, but you can use those as a tool to find new ways to do things. Learn as much as you can about your country’s culture so you can integrate yourself as much as possible. Traveling and being in another country is exhilarating in its own right, but preparing yourself beforehand allows you to enjoy even more of your trip as you can avoid being distracted by easily avoided issues.

So go. Prepare yourself. Prepare so that when you are there, you can speak what you know of the language even if you think it will not sound right. Order the food people recommend to you even if you think you may not like it. Take pictures even if you think you will look like a tourist. Let yourself experience what may be the best time of your life.

I am currently a freshman at the University of Alabama studying Public Relations and English. I'm minoring in Italian and global studies. I know. I love pretty much everything, but I especially love the Kardashians, french fries, and traveling. I dream about living in Florence one day and eating all the gelato I want, forever. Taylor Swift's publicist is my inspiration. Tree Paine. Look her up.
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