Studying abroad is an experience to broaden horizons. Students who study abroad learn new languages, experience diverse cultures and often have a new view on life.
If you plan on studying overseas in the near future, here are some tips from ecampustour.com, the staff at Temple’s International Programs office and students who have already ventured overseas, to keep in mind before and during your trip.
1. Learn about the country you are visiting:
Prior to your departure, read about the country where you plan to study. Learn about the nation’s food, laws, culture, customs, people and history. Learning about the country will help lower the culture shock once you arrive to your destination.
James Mulvihill, a senior marketing student, who studied abroad in Rome, said, “We were unsure of how to tip in Italy so we left a 30 percent tip. The waiter seemed very pleased with us and he gave us free shots even though we drank soda with our pizza. Turns out that waiters in Italy are paid normal wages and do not expect large tips. Nevertheless, most of us tipped the wait staffs as if we were still in the States. I should have researched the tipping process prior to leaving.”
2. Get required documents:
In preparation, obtain required documents. Don’t forget a valid passport before taking up residence abroad. Remember to fill out the emergency page of your passport. Don’t forget to get a student visa. In addition, you need to make sure you have medical insurance that would cover a medical emergency overseas.
Alice Pietraszko, a junior criminal justice student, will study abroad in Rome this fall. Pietraszko said, “Getting the documents in advance is a very good idea in case you run across problems. I’m actually in the process of doing this now and I don’t leave until August. It’s good to start early.”
3. Talk to students who have studied abroad:
These students can give you information that can’t be found in a guidebook. They can give you advice on what to pack, how to make friends and the cheapest way to call home.
Shem Roldan, a senior psychology student, who studied abroad in the Philippines, said, “For me personally, talking to others who studied abroad served as a motivational purpose. Studying abroad can seem like an impossible challenge and too big a task to achieve, considering you are about to reside in a completely different country. Talking to someone who experienced what you’re about to endure is inspiring.”
4. Respect the country:
Once you have arrived in the country, remember to respect that nation’s etiquettes, rules and laws.
Different countries respect certain dress codes and manners. It is also important to learn about these laws and comply with them. Said Roldan: “It’s symbolic for asking a blessing from your elders in the Philippines. You simply grab their hand, hold it and place it on your forehand.”
5. Keep in touch with family and friends:
This will allow you to share your adventures. It should also help to relieve homesickness. “I know I’m going to miss my family and friends the most; I promised them I’d keep in touch through e-mail and phone calls,” Pietraszko said.
6. Make friends with locals:
They can show you certain aspects of the country that you may not uncover on your own. “We made friends with the porters [security guards] at our residence, which was beneficial because they were friendly and helped us find our way when we were lost,” Mulvihill said.
7. Keep a blog:
Keeping a blog will allow you to record your adventures so you have something to look back on. Write about all the important events, people, places and traditions.
8. Take pictures:
Taking photos of your experiences will give you lasting memories to look back on.
“I brought my digital camera with extra batteries and memory cards,” Mulvihill said. “Most of the students filled their memory cards with hundreds of pictures and I would recommend doing the same.”
Along with these eight tips, Sara Sequin, the marketing coordinator for International Programs, suggests to pack light, make sure to have all of the required immunizations and become fairly acclimated with the country’s language.
If possible, attend the pre-departure orientation that your school or program offers.
Prepare to handle business at home while overseas (filing taxes, voting, paying bills, etc.).
Get packing and say ‘Bon voyage,’ ‘Ciao!’ or ‘Sayonara.’ Whatever the language, say hello to a whole new world.
Jessica Marcial can be reached at email@example.com.