Many people say studying abroad was one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives. However, when you ask, “why?”, the answer isn’t about the traditional way we think about studying. People talk about what they experienced, new activities they tried, and landscapes they saw for the very first time.
While abroad, studying takes other forms, like picturing gladiators battling lions in Rome, or taste testing snails in the streets of Morocco, or getting yelled at in another language and trying to figure out what’s going on.
The hands on experience is much more meaningful than spending those extra three hours on that assignment. It’s okay to speed through it. In fact, I advise it. Most of my mistakes focus much less on school, and more on how to make your time abroad as valuable as possible.
Studying abroad is about embracing the country’s culture and lifestyle; meeting locals, visiting museums, volunteering at a refugee camp and maybe even missing a class to visit… idk, London. This exact scenario brings me to my first mistake while studying abroad.
- FOMO: If you don’t have it already, get it. You’re officially diagnosed. Be absolutely petrified to miss out on anything. This is your era of saying yes. YES YES YES! If you have to miss a class because you are taking a trip, please be screaming hooray. What you learn in the country you are visiting reeks more rewards than sitting in a classroom. I made a major mistake in not traveling to London with a group. Due to this, I’ve missed out on not only the memories (and the amazing photos in front of Buckingham Palace), but I also missed out on knowledge I would’ve gained from experiencing the country’s history, culture, food, architecture, etc., first hand. This would’ve been the ultimate field trip, and that is something that can’t be made up in a classroom. What the lecture was the day I went to class, I don’t know, but the memories I could’ve made would’ve stuck with me forever.
2. Volunteering: This gets put on the list of mistakes because I didn’t do enough of it. Studying and living abroad is a worthwhile experience in and of itself, but volunteering takes this to a deeper, more intellectual level. Get involved in a refugee camp, tutor students or volunteer at an elderly home. Serving others is a fulfilling experience. It allows you to become more educated about other people’s cultures and to learn and give back.
3. Documenting Travels: You are going to get caught up in the moments. Record them as much as possible. Pictures are great, but don’t solely rely on them. Jot down how you were feeling or discovered in the moment. During tours, have your phone or journal and take notes. You won’t be able to remember everything, and an article online won’t be as memorable as something you wrote yourself. Believe me, this will be a sentimental safe keep.
4. Extending My Trip: How often do you find yourself on the other side of the world? If you have the money and energy to extend your trip, do so. You don’t have to go home because the term is over, and you certainly don’t have to end the fun just because of it. If destinations are still on your, “to-visit list,” I highly recommend visiting them because you never know when you will make it back.
Everyone makes mistakes; just don’t make the big ones. Make the most of your time abroad, and don’t hold back!