August 10, 2012

3 Most Important Study Abroad Tips for Students

It's been said time and time again, studying abroad is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. There are few other times in life that you can immerse yourself in a new country and new culture with the guidance and support of a learning institution. While traveling abroad is certainly possible at certain times in our lives, actually studying abroad is another story. Attending classes at a school overseas and learning valuable lessons about our global society and about yourself are just some of the benefits of semesters abroad. 

Talk to any graduated college student who has taken a semester abroad during their collegiate study and they will say that their experience abroad was one of the most meaningful aspects of their higher education. It is the process of abandoning your comfort zone and experience in an entirely new culture and learning system that makes studying abroad such a meaningful and enlightening event. While study abroad is certainly an exciting and important time, it can also be challenging. Consider these three useful and vital tips to prepare for the perfect time abroad.

Research First
The first step to studying abroad is carefully researching your abroad destination before you go. While reading up on the history of the location is useful, it's also important to read local newspapers and educate yourself on the current state of affairs in the country and city you're visiting. Pick up a current travel book to familiarize yourself with major monuments, local sites, and transportation. Try to learn more about the different areas of town. What are the good areas? What are considered the "bad" areas? Read reviews of your program and of study abroad experiences in that area. Many past students will have blogs devoted to their student experience. These can be very useful tools for getting an idea of what to expect and learning insider tips. Do your research, but also don't exhaust yourself with facts, maps, and stories of the area. Be sure to leave enough mystery so that you can create your own opinions and insights.

Think Student Discount
Studying abroad can be an expensive endeavor. With the cost of tuition and adding in all the travelling and living expenses, money can become a concern. Take advantage of any student discounts that might be available in your study abroad country. Many students overlook this perk because they assume their host country doesn't have such discounts. Again, do your research. Many tourist attractions, museums, transportation, shopping outlets, and other forms of entertainment may offer student perks that can help you save money. Also, there may be student traveling discounts for your weekend trips as well as discounts offered to students at hostels or hotels. Look into your options and try to pinpoint areas where you can save money easily.

Consider Communication
Obviously, communication is one of the biggest topics when it comes to studying abroad for most students. First off, think about the ways in which you plan to communicate with your family and friends back home while you are abroad. Think about internet access, cell phones, calling cards, Skype, and other communication options. Some of these things you may not be able to evaluate until you are actually set up abroad, but discussing things with family and friends beforehand is always wise. Also think about how you will communicate with local friends and establishments while you are abroad. Many students will purchase low cost pay-as-you-go cellphone plans. This can be the easiest way to call for cabs and stay in touch with other abroad students. Also, of course, there is always the concern of communication in a country with a different language than your own. While many abroad programs are designed to help students with this issue, it's important to think about it ahead of time too. Consider studying the language some before you leave. Learn at least a few common phrases and questions.

About the Author. Stephanie Brooks is a freelance education blogger who believes that online education is the future. Thus when she's not researching about the top 10online universities in the country, she's giving her readers advice on how to get the most out of an online higher education.  She looks forward to your comments.

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