Making The Most Of Your Time
These are a few tips for staying on top of your game while you’re abroad:
- Spend as much time as possible with locals. Making friends in your classes is the easiest way to do this, but there are other ways to immerse yourself.
- Branch out to other local universities, or ask local students where the hotspots are to socialize to meet other students.
- Make friends with the local market and shop owners.
- Join a language exchange to practice the local language and help a local learn English.
- Spend time with your home-stay family.
- Join a local sports club or team or find a local park where they play sports.
- Take culture classes apart from your program.
- Ask about volunteer opportunities in the community, at schools, hospitals, museums, or NGOs. Which also look great on a resume.
- Limit the amount of time you spend checking up on friends and family in the US. It has been shown to lengthen the culture shock integration time and it detracts from the amount of time you can spend experiencing the new place you are in.
- Choose local restaurants, ask local shops what to eat for lunch, watch local TV!
- If you are in Europe especially, people-watching is a well-practiced art. Do as the locals do! For the price of a slowly-savored coffee or local pastry, you can spend at least an hour people-watching in a local café.
- Visit museums! It’s often worthwhile to go with a guide (book or person), to learn about the art or history highlighted and to consider how such information might be presented by a local or a foreigner. Ask about student discounts. If you have an ISIC (International Student Identification Card), it will often get you a discounted entrance, and many museums have lower prices on certain days of the week.
- If you’re going to travel, consider traveling within your host country and getting to know it in depth. It’s tempting to travel throughout the region, especially if you have friends studying in countries nearby, but long-distance trips for short times can be exhausting, so you might want to save such trips for longer durations.
- Treat yourself well: rest, eat well, and don’t spend so much time (and money) drinking that hangovers get in the way of exploring and experiencing your host country. Too many late nights, not enough solid nutrition, or too much alcohol can really slow you down, not to mention leave you susceptible to serious illness and other risks. And how are you supposed to appreciate travel if you are constantly unwell?
- Continue to stay abreast of local and national political, health, weather, and safety conditions, as well as international news.