This post was most recently updated on June 11th, 2019

Studying abroad can be an incredible experience that changes the way you view and interact with the world. It can also enhance your cultural understanding, help you learn another language, and open up personal and professional opportunities.

So, if you’ve picked your destination, snagged some cheap international flights, and are all packed up and raring to go, keep these five study abroad tips in mind for making the most of your experience.

Research before you leave

researching for a trip

Depending on the type of experience you choose, most study abroad programs have some sort of pre-departure orientation. This can be a great way to begin your research. Take some time to dig deeper and research topics that interest you about the destination(s) you’re visiting. If flamenco dancing is your thing, research the best flamenco schools and performance venues in Seville. If you are curious about la lutte (wrestling) in Senegal, research the history of the sport. Read articles online, watch films, and grab some books for the long plane ride. This will give you some great background so you are ready to hit the ground running when you arrive at your destination.

Keep an open mind

young woman tourist

No matter how much you research, trips abroad rarely go 100% as planned. That’s why it’s important to keep an open mind and be prepared to try new experiences, foods, modes of transportation, classes … the list goes on. Immersing yourself in another culture means living in the moment and taking every opportunity to learn more. It’s often these unexpected opportunities that lead to revelations and connections. You never know who you might meet on an unexpected camel ride through the Sahara!

Haven’t booked your study abroad trip yet? Grab cheap international flights and start planning!

Take some time to reflect

male traveler reflecting

Studying abroad can be intense. Functioning in a different language, experiencing a new culture, and meeting new people can be exciting and, at times, overwhelming. Carve out time each day to reflect on what you’re experiencing and learning. Think about things that are confusing to you and the questions you still have. Keeping a notebook or journal can be a great way to reflect on what you’ve been experiencing. Talking with a friend (either someone who is part of your study abroad program or a friend back home) can also be a great way to process what you’re experiencing.

Document your journey

traveler writing in a journal

From photo sites to blogs, vlogs, scrapbooks, and handwritten journals, there are many different ways to document your experience – and you don’t have to choose only one! Before you decide how you’re going to document it, think about who your audience is (maybe it’s just a future version of you) and what type of content will be most relevant. Then come up with a plan to collect photos, video, ticket stubs, quotes, etc. and organize them. If you work on this each week (or build it into each day as your reflection time), it will be easier to stay on track.

RELATED: How to Avoid the Most Common Travel Mistakes While Studying Abroad

Carry your knowledge and connections forward

Man sitting near the Brooklyn bridge on laptop

As you get to the end of your trip and prepare to hop on cheap international flights home, think about how you’re going to use the knowledge and connections you acquired during your stay. Did your time in China inspire you to get a master’s degree in international relations? Will you return to France to apprentice with the restaurateur you met in Lyon? Did your experience interviewing fishing communities in Mali spark an interest in international journalism? It’s important to think about how you’ll use your new international skills and perspectives in the days, months, and years to come.

 

Have you studied abroad? What advice would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments section.

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About The Author

Jen Bouchard

An insatiable foodie, art collector, and international literature aficionado, I have traveled throughout Europe, Asia, the U.S. and Canada. For the past fifteen years, I have written about my adventures for various travel and literary publications. I am the owner of Lucidité Writing (www.luciditewriting.com) and Bouchard Design Co.