So, you’ve made the decision to join a study abroad program – well done! We’ve put together a few pointers that will help you and the rest of your study abroad group the get the best out of this great experience.
Any study abroad program requires planning. And the sooner you start the easier you will have it along the way. Often universities have application deadlines, so make sure to check in with your study abroad office as early as possible to find out what you need to sign up and what the deadlines are.
The cost of a study abroad program is always a major factor, but there are many ways in which you can reduce your financial burden. At many colleges and university there are scholarships available, often even funding for specific projects. Again, start early and find out from your study abroad office or your lecturers / program leaders if there is any financial aid available and if you are eligible to apply for it. A big contributor to the cost of the study abroad program are the international flight connections. For most programs the travel dates are fixed already well in advance and once they are fixed you can start to book your flights. The earlier you book them, the better rate you will be able to get. If you need assistance with this, please check out our flight booking page for more infos.
Be open minded:
This is actually a “must-have”. You will be in environments that are foreign to you, you will need to communicate with other cultures, which are in a completely different social standing and structure than you might be used to and you will most probably be in situations which will make you feel uncomfortable. But, hey!, that’s exactly why you are on a study abroad trip: learn about different cultures, experience new things, try new food, meet new people and be open to new ideas.
Things change, the daily program might be updated, because an elephant trampled through your camp. It might not be possible to have dinner always at exactly the same time and things might not go as you have planned them. But, life will go on and the more flexible you are in your own ways the less it will bother you.
One of the best things you can do before even going on a study abroad trip is to prepare yourself for the trip. Read through your travel documents, check out general country infos and try and find out as much as possible about the countries you are going to visit. Be prepared that you will only have very limited internet possibilities, so downloading assignment papers and instructions while you are travelling will probably not work as well as you might have hoped.
Only take what you need:
Luggage space is limited especially since you probably need to carry your laptop as well as your camera equipment with you. So try and reduce your luggage to a minimum. In general we would also suggest to take soft bags rather than hard-case suitcases. And make sure that you can carry your own luggage, because you will probably need to drag it around yourself when checking-in at camps and lodges. Check out our packing suggestions, which will help you plan your luggage.
You are an ambassador:
The study abroad programs are set up to help you expand your minds and learn from new experiences. But, there will also be certain rules which might inhibit you from doing things that you would normally do at home. The rules and social boundaries on study abroad trips are there for certain reasons and none of them is to make you feel more uncomfortable. Often different cultures perceive clothing, gestures and general behavior differently than you would and you might offend other people by simply doing what you normally do at home. The aim of the study abroad is to learn and let others learn from you. See yourself as an ambassador of your culture, your country and your values and ideally when you return home, you will also be an ambassador for the countries you visited to your friends and family and thereby help reduce prejudice about different cultures and beliefs.