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The Study Abroad Series: Essential Tips for Making the Most of Your Study Abroad Experience

Embarking on a studying abroad experience is an exciting opportunity, but preparation is key to make the most out of this experience. From navigating cultural differences and sorting out practicalities such as visas to making sure you make the most out of your time. Thorough research is essential to making this process the best possible. Let's explore some tips to ensure a smooth transition into your international experience.

  1. Research your destinations 

Prepare thoroughly before studying abroad to maximize your experience. Research cultural and practical differences in your destination. Read blogs, watch videos, and connect with other students for insights. Understand social norms and immerse yourself in local entertainment. Cultural preparation is key. Take the time to understand the customs, traditions of your host country. For instance, I moved from the UK to South Korea where hierarchical relationships and respect for elders are deeply ingrained. Being aware of these cultural nuances can help you navigate social interactions with grace and respect. 

Another key component of research is practicalities like visa requirements, application procedures and insurance options. Be aware of specific requirements. For example, to apply for the dormitory in Korea, you need to provide a negative Tuberculosis test. Ensure you look out for any specific requirements like this to avoid any stress later down the line. Compile a checklist of essential tasks and deadlines to stay organized. Remember, thorough preparation pays off once you arrive.

  1. Stay open minded - from learning the language to making new friends

Keeping an open mind while observing new cultures is important as it exposes you to different perspectives. Be open to engaging with people from very different walks of life. Be inspired to pick up a new language and see yourself grow into a more well rounded person. 

Taking the initiative to learn some of the language spoken in your destination can prove highly beneficial. This can demonstrate respect and will be highly appreciated. However, remember that not being fluent shouldn’t deter you. With the wide access of technology it is more than possible to understand one another. And so while mastering the language may not be necessary, it opens doors to engaging with locals and gaining deeper insights into the culture. 

One of the greatest concerns when moving away from home is whether we'll form meaningful connections and friendships. Rest assured, with numerous other exchange students in similar circumstances, you're bound to forge friendships, often exceeding your expectations. However, there may be instances where you struggle to connect with others as anticipated. You can view this situation more positively as it could provide valuable opportunities for self reflection and personal growth. Learning to embrace and enjoy your own company can serve just as rewarding as forming friendships. However, don't hesitate to take initiative in social situations. Remember, life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Attend orientation events, join clubs, participate in group activities and be open in engaging with others. 

Remember, life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

  1. Document your experience + Reflect + practice gratitude 

Documenting your study abroad experience allows you to capture unforgettable memories and reflect on the journey. Try keeping a journal or creating a digital diary as a way of remembering this experience. Take many photos, videos, collect things and write about your days, even the most mundane moments you'll want to remember. Try regularly setting aside time for this, you won’t regret it. Sometimes it is hard to see how you've changed as a person and writing things down is a perfect way to see progress. Think about the challenges you’ve overcome and the lessons you have learnt. You will go onto treasure these memories forever, so having something to remember it by is definitely worthwhile. This can also be a perfect way to practice gratitude. 

Here are some pre departure prompts to get you started:

1. What am I most excited to see/do?

2. What will I miss most when I’m abroad and how do I plan to deal with homesickness?

3. What am I most nervous about?

4. Who do I want to be at the end of this experience?

As you prepare to pack up your life and move far from home, take pride in this significant milestone. We are super proud and excited for you. Embrace the unknown with courage, be safe and enjoy your time abroad!


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