The opportunity to study abroad is one that no student should pass up. There will never be a time in your life when you’re less tied down; with no spouse, children, job, or other attachments to stop you, there’s no reason not to scratch your itch to travel and continue earning credits towards your degree at the same time. Often, schools will set you up with a host family or a dormitory of some sort and you’ll continue to pay your regular tuition while you’re away, making the prospect of spending some time in another country affordable for the average student. So there’s really nothing holding you back. But there are some things you might want to do in preparation for overseas travel. Here are just a few tips to help ensure that you’re ready for your semester (or longer) studying abroad.
- Foreign language classes. It’s not necessarily imperative that you learn a foreign language before you decide to study abroad. In some cases you can travel to English-speaking countries, or you might simply attend a foreign school with English-speaking teachers. But you’ll get a lot more out of your time in another country if you speak the language, at least a little. The whole point of traveling is to immerse yourself in a new country, a new culture, and a new way of seeing the world. In addition to sampling the cuisine, participating in local festivals, and picking up cultural customs, speaking the language will help you to think in a different way and gain new perspective. Plus, it will be a lot easier to talk to the locals.
- Research schools. This is important in two ways. First you need to look into domestic colleges that offer study abroad programs for the topics you’re interested in studying. Then you need to make sure that the schools they partner with overseas provide the coursework you seek. This can entail a lot of cross-checking, but the end result will be a spectacular program of study, both domestically and internationally.
- Learn cultural customs. Did you know that some cultures find a kiss on the mouth as a greeting perfectly acceptable while others prefer to bow upon meeting rather than touching at all? Although the world has become much smaller of late thanks to the prevalence of travel and communications technology, still you must take the time to understand the particular cultural mores of the country you plan to visit so that you don’t make a major blunder and offend your hosts right off the bat. You will likely get some leeway, especially if you make it clear that your goal is to learn all you can. But taking the time to do some research before arriving will show them that you’re serious about respecting their customs and making a good impression.
- Get paperwork in order. You may need several legal documents when you plan to study abroad, including a passport, a student Visa, and even an international driver’s license, depending on where you travel to. So talk to an advisor at school or go to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs website at travel.state.gov to find out what you need and how to obtain it.
- Consider classes. Whether you’re looking to earn an online accounting masters degree or you want to major in medicine at a top university, you need to make sure that studying abroad will allow you to continue earning the credits you need to complete your program on the timetable you have planned. Of course, you could always knock off some general coursework when you study abroad, provided the credits are accepted by your home-base school.