Traveling abroad presents an opportunity unlike any other for college students. While abroad, you will build friendships, enhance your education, and immerse yourself in a variety cultures and communities, helping you to develop a multicultural worldview and learn about the world around you.
Although studying abroad can be an overwhelmingly positive experience, it does come with several challenges that can be addressed through careful planning, foresight, and research.
#1 | Brush Up on Local Language
An oft-overlooked aspect of traveling abroad is the need to learn the language spoken by the locals of your target destination. While it is easy to assume that most of the people you meet abroad will have at least a fundamental knowledge of English, you can’t rely on your English-speaking skills alone to navigate effectively through non-English speaking communities.
For example, even in countries like Spain, many older individuals don’t speak any English. That is why using a language learning app like Babbel to learn Spanish before taking off for your semester abroad can pay serious dividends.
In addition to helping you communicate for simple things like a cup of coffee or the nearest restroom, learning the language of the country where you want to study abroad will help you make connections and immerse yourself in an exciting new culture. By speaking the language, you are demonstrating that you are more than just the average tourist, and that you have a true desire or passion to learn about the place where you’ll be living.
#2 | Proper Travel Documentation
Ensuring your travel documentation is up to date is an essential part of having a positive experience studying abroad. Before you leave, you should make sure you have a current version of your passport, student visa, and any other documentation that your study abroad program may require.
If your documentation is not current, you will be unable to leave for your trip abroad, or worse, you may even be sent home if your documentation is not kept current through the duration of your trip. Prevent this by double-checking the dates on all of your paperwork so that you can address any problems before it is too late to find a solution.
#3 | Travel Insurance
While travel insurance likely isn’t your first thought while planning your trip abroad, it is an important consideration that has the potential to save you thousands in the future. Travel insurance covers against losses that take place while abroad, ranging from theft or illness to minor inconveniences and additional fees that may come up while traveling to your destination.
Travel insurance is especially important if you plan on traveling with expensive items like phones, laptops, jewelry, or cameras. While many travel insurance plans include basic coverage for theft, you should look into the specifics of your plan and find additional coverage if it does not cover the cost of your belongings.
#4 | Arrange Lodging & Travel Accommodations
Having plans for your lodging and travel accommodations ahead of time can eliminate stress while traveling, and help guarantee you have a smooth transition to living abroad through the duration of your program. If you plan early, you are also much more likely to find great deals on things like airline tickets, public transit passes, and hostel rooms.
Your study-abroad program most likely includes some form of on-campus housing, but if you need to find your own lodging for the time you are there, there are several good options that each have their own benefits.
For example, private apartments can give you the luxury of having a space to make your own while you are abroad, but some study abroad programs offer the ability to stay with a family that lives near the university you will be attending. Choosing to stay with a family can drastically improve your knowledge of the language they speak and can help you offset the cost of things like food or utilities.
Ultimately, only you can decide the best course of action, but you should try to get out of your comfort zone to create more lasting memories while you are abroad.
#5 | Engage In University Forums
University forums are the best way to find like-minded people to form connections and friendships with people from the country where you are studying. Making friends with locals can help you learn about the place where you’re living and get advice about how to best navigate your new lifestyle.
Moving abroad, even for a semester, is a big transition that can be made much easier with the help of friends to get you through it.