Student to Student
A Study Abroad Checklist
They say hindsight is 20/20. Study abroad is an endeavor that should be undertaken only with a full armory of advice, input, and evaluation. A little forethought and research may make crucial differences in the experience itself. As a veteran study-abroader, here are my practical tips on how to make your trip less stressfulbefore, during, and after.
Before You Leave: First, make sure the place you are headed is to the place you want to be. In addition to geographic location, consider different living accommodations: dorms, apartments, host families. Many programs do not offer options, so be sure that the one you pick suits your living preferences. Be sure to consider the presence of other Americans before committing to a program location. Even foreign universities may offer foreigners only classes; others may place international students in the same classrooms as native students. Research the academic quality of the institutions you consider.
What You Should Have Known: My biggest regret was overpacking. Pack smartly and lightly. Take clothes that do not require dry cleaning, ironing, or special care.
My second regret was having all of my money with me from the beginning. This led to a lot of frivolous spending at the start of the trip which prevented me from doing things at the end of that trip I could have afforded to do otherwise. Keep an untouchable stash for the last third of the trip.
Finally, I regret not structuring my study abroad experience so that there was time for extra traveling. After all, if you are already there, why not make the most of it and travel all you can?
Home Again: Now that its overprobably the best experience of your lifeits hard to hold onto that high. So look for opportunities to apply your experience abroad to your life at home. I have kept in close touch with the friends I made in Costa Rica and with my wonderful host family. I have also become an intern and peer adviser in my schools international studies office and have continued my language study.
Other ways to incorporate study abroad into your life back home is to become part of a cultural club or an organization that promotes study abroad. Volunteer work with ESL (English as a Second Language) students or in communities with high numbers of immigrants are other ways to apply lessons learned abroad to life here. Continue study of the host country language and culture. Make a scrapbook. And start saving up to go back. All these strategies can make re-entry less stressful and more fulfilling.
The most important thing to remember is that study abroad does not have to end with a return home. It is a truly life-altering experience, and it is only natural that life upon return will reflect this. Your experience has changed who you are and how you see the world. Embrace this. Use it not only to further your own goals but to help to start someone else down their own path. Sharing what you have learned now is the best way of keeping your past alive.