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The Dos and Don’ts of Studying Abroad

Everyone knows that the first big step to studying abroad is simply getting there. In just stepping off the airplane into your chosen country, you have succeeded in the application and traveling process, and have made it to your desired location. Your next steps, of course, are to finally settle into your new campus and begin the study abroad experience! As you’re going to be abroad for at least a semester, I have provided you with several dos and don’ts of studying abroad. The list could go on forever depending on where you are going, but I hope it can give you a good idea of how you can safely proceed in your first weeks navigating your new home.

DO ask questions and be interested!

It is absolutely necessary to ask questions when being abroad. The benefit of being a foreigner is that no question coming from you is stupid. Asking questions makes you sound interested in how you should act in the country, and will make others feel good helping you understand money, culture, classes, etc, in their home country. It is the one of the best ways to learn. Overcome the shyness you may feel in the beginning and ask anything you may be confused on.

DON’T keep yourself on campus!

One of the most difficult things about studying abroad is the balance between working for your classes and wanting to explore. While you should dedicate some of your time to your actual studies, staying too much in your room or simply staying on campus all the time will not give you the most of your study abroad experience.  Shake things up by going out into your campus’ town and work at a coffee shop or in a local park. By doing this, you can experience more of the culture of the country and not limit yourself to only the campus culture.

DO travel!

One of the most memorable parts of studying abroad is the traveling! You often hear people remark on how they worked so hard while studying abroad that the only time they got to travel was near the end of their stay. Don’t let this happen to you! Begin traveling as soon as you can, even if it is just weekends or day trips, so that you can get every experience in that you can. Whether you go alone or with friends, take the leap.

DON’T only make friends with people from your home country!

Feeling homesick and nervous is a very real thing when studying abroad and finding people from your home country can help with feeling a little more secure. The problem with this, of course, is that you’re missing out on learning about the people of the country you're in, as well as other cultures that may also be there. Making friends from all over the world helps you learn so much about these new cultures and perspectives; if you leave without making these friendships, you lose a lot of the experience. Certainly, make new friends from your home country, but do not exclude the others.

DO laugh it off when you make mistakes!

Making mistakes is inevitable when you go abroad. You will say something or do something that may make you look silly and show off the fact that you’re a foreigner. These mistakes, however, are the key to learning what you can and can’t do in the country and help you understand the world better. Simply laugh when these mistakes happen and learn.

DON’T insult your host country!  You’re a guest as well!

When coming to a new country, you will be told by your home school that you represent them and your own country when studying abroad. While everything is new and different, it is important to respect the differences you see and to not remark on anything that will give offense. It feels hurtful to hear someone make a rude comment about your own culture and cultural behaviors, so do not do this to your host country.

DO say “yes” to as many things as you can!

One of the best ways to do as much as you can is to practice this little technique: say yes to any invitation that comes your way. Without any excuses, by saying "yes" to travel suggestions or any events that you’re invited to, you open the door to meeting new people, experiencing new things, and making many more memories.

DON’T travel back home right away!

If you can help it, stick around once school is finished. Once the semester finishes, you suddenly have free time to travel and go to more places before you must head home. This time is perfect for the places that are a little further and require more time and energy to get to. A popular choice is to travel to home countries of your other international friends who may want to show you around their own city. Either way, you have the time and still are in the country, so you might as well make even more of your trip!

DO have as much fun as you can!

At the end of the day, you are studying abroad to have fun and make lasting memories. Make the most of your trip in whatever way you think is best and squeeze in as much fun as you can. I wish you every bit of luck in your study abroad experience and know that you will come back extremely happy you did it!

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Anastasia Armstrong. English Major at UMass Amherst.
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