10 Ways to Make the Most of Your Study Abroad Experience

Over the past summer, I studied abroad in Paris and fulfilled a dream I've had my entire life. But since I was taking two full courses packed into a month, it was often a challenge to make time for sightseeing and exploring while also having lectures and assignments. 

In order to make the most out my experience, I had to time manage and take risks, and looking back, I'm glad I was able to make the most out of my study abroad experience.

Here are ten things that helped me while I was studying abroad:

1. Don't try to fit every activity in the first few days

During our first two weeks, we merely walked and explored the city and spent the last two weeks actually visiting some of the historical sites and museums. It gave us an opportunity to get familiar with the lay of the land and also prevented us from getting too burned out in the beginning. 

Photo credits: Maria Akhter

2. Balance full days with relaxing days

Since you'll have homework and assignments, utilize calmer days and evenings to catch up on work, especially after fuller and more activity-packed days. There was nothing better than sitting in a Parisian coffee shop and people watching while doing my homework.

3. Stay on top of your health

Every day counts when you're abroad, so try not let any of those days be spent coughing and sneezing in bed. Vitamin supplements like Emergen-C and adequate rest are the keys to staying healthy on a trip!

4. Interact with everyone in your group

While you may get comfortable with a few people, it's important to extend an effort to get to know everyone in your group. These are the people you'll be eating, working and traveling with, and it makes the trip all the more fun if you're able to form a close bond with your group.

Photo credits: Maria Akhter

5. Seek out activities and events occurring during your stay

I was extremely lucky to be in Paris during Bastille Day and Tour de France and was able to witness events truly unique to the month I was there for. Search around for events that are occurring locally and take advantage of them.

6. Talk to locals

Strike up a conversation with your waiter or the owner of a souvenir shop. You'll get to see how they experience life and you might even make a friend to keep in touch with after you've parted ways!

7. Your teacher is a friend

Your professor is just as much as a traveler and tourist as you are and might even have insights on how to enjoy your stay. Ask your professor out for a cup of coffee or a walk around the city.

8. Splurge once in a while

Don't be afraid to splurge a little bit for a fancy treat or a cool souvenir. You might never have that opportunity again.

Photo credits: Maria Akhter

9. Keep a travel journal

Journaling was a requirement for my program, but I would recommend it for any travel experience! It's a great way to keep a mental photograph of all that you're seeing and the emotions you may be feeling.

10. Don't be afraid to say "yes"

Take risks and go outside of your comfort zone. If you're not a dancer, go to a dance club. If you don't like being alone, go out on a solo walk during the day. They'll be experiences you'll carry with you for a lifetime.

Studying abroad truly is a once in a life-time experience, so if you do get the chance to go, make sure you soak up every opportunity and make the most of it!

Cover photo credits: Maria Akhter