5 Tips For Getting the Most Out of Your Study Abroad

As my study abroad date drew closer this past fall, I found myself growing increasingly nervous. I was going to fly to a country I knew nothing about, live with a family I’d never met, and attend a university that I’d only seen in photos. At that moment, I wished for the advice of a study abroad veteran, so that I could mentally prepare myself for the adventures ahead!

If you are reading this article with a sense of anxious anticipation, I hope that I can give you some tips to make the adjustment easier and the overall experience more meaningful.


  1. Study up on the language of your host country.

The strongest way to prepare yourself is to learn how to communicate with the individuals in your host country. Whether you have studied the language before or not, brush up on basic conversational language before you leave on your journey, so that you will be able to navigate your way through the city you are studying in. Learning simple questions like, “Where is the restroom?” and “How much does this cost?” will make your infinitely more prepared for when you need to ask someone a question quickly and there are no other English-speakers nearby.


Once I was in my host country, I continued to practice the native language by locating a language exchange partner. I would highly recommend this action to others studying abroad, because not only can this person teach you to be conversational and use slang, they can also give you recommendations for fun activities and restaurants where you can taste some of the local cuisine.


  1. Spend the week/weekend before classes start getting a lay of the land.

When you first arrive in your host country, it is tempting to avoid being outside for long periods of time in a foreign-language-dominant environment, but nothing teaches you your way around the city like going out and exploring! If you get lost, avoid the temptation to whip out your phone and use Google Maps. Try to soak in the surroundings and wander the streets. It will allow you to scope out fun places to visit and give you a better overall sense of direction in the long run.


When the time comes for you to go home, take the time to ask for directions from the people around you. Don’t be shy or nervous! They are almost always friendly and more than happy to help you get where you want to go!


  1. Find a café to frequent over the course of your program.

Not only will this café provide the coffee and pastries typical of the city you’re studying in, but it will serve as a place to improve your language skills in a low-stress environment. Find a seat, and listen to the flow of conversation surrounding you. You can usually hear some interesting stories and jokes being exchanged and you’ll gain stronger comprehension of the language while you’re at it!


When you are ordering your coffee or food, challenge yourself to talk in the official language of your host country. Your conversation with the cashier or barista is guaranteed to be on the shorter side and the vocabulary you will use when ordering will benefit you in other conversational contexts outside of the café.

  1. Take up walking and/or running.

Go on long walks or runs through the city. It will allow you to see everything there is to see, from hidden murals to museums to important monuments. If you a feeling stressed about being in a new culture, being active can also help you relax and briefly separate yourself from the factors that are overwhelming you.


  1. Try to enjoy and relax as much as possible!

Go on a day trip! Eat a common local meal! Go on a walking tour! Make sure you don’t get too bogged down by your school work. Chances are you’ll gain a more memorable and meaningful experience if you spend more time in public places and around locals than you will studying in your room. That being said, try to find balance so you don’t negatively impact your GPA!