Leaving could be the scariest thing you could ever do in your life – it could either take you to a better place or make you regret ever leaving. Although, one thing is for sure: leaving, despite how frightening it could be, can teach you a lot about yourself. Studying abroad was the closest I got to “leaving “ in college and I must say, leaving is liberating. The stint that I had during the Spring of 2018 at the University of Arkansas is one of the most adventurous things that I have done in my life and it has truly changed me in many ways.
Despite how glamorous studying abroad sounds like, the experience was not at all flawless. There were a lot of times when I felt like going home because I got sick of the cold (and sometimes the food) but I had to constantly remind myself that I was there for a purpose
So, when I try to look at those memories, I often end up telling myself, “Dang! I wish I knew these things before I studied abroad.” Instead of regretting not knowing, I would rather share with aspiring international students like you the most essential things I wish I knew before studying abroad.
1. Know more about the place you’re going to
Do some Googling about your destination and the school that you will be attending. It is important to know such information beforehand so that you can make preparations especially in terms of climate. I ended up in Arkansas, a state with an unbelievably extreme climate, where my tropical skin dramatically dried up from head to toe. Knowing what to expect of the climate will make you so glad once you’re there. Aside from that, if the country is not an English speaking one, make sure to learn some essential phrases that you can use in communicating with the locals. Knowing the basics of communication is a good skill to bring with you when you study abroad.
2. Pack light
You won’t really wear all of the clothes that you plan on bringing and trust me when I say that you will accumulate a lot of study abroad memorabilia. Try, as much as possible, to leave space for those souvenirs or even for “pasalubong”.
3. Secure your passport and other important documents at all times
Your passport will be your only official identification card as an international student – it is THAT important. Always have it secured somewhere safe together with your important documents. There’s a reason why it’s called important documents.
4. Write down the contact information of important contacts like the International Office.
This sounds very old school but technology is just something that you can’t rely on 100% of the time. In the event that your phone runs out of power, at least you have the contact information of your emergency contact in your journal.
5. Write a checklist and a bucket list.
Your destination will not be a jeepney ride away so you really have to make sure that you will not be forgetting anything of importance (e.g. travel documents, medicine, wallet, etc.) or you won’t miss out on the best experiences.
6. Take advantage of the school’s facilities as much as possible
You will be going to amazing universities that have facilities that you only dreamed of as a Filipino student. Make sure to utilize the facilities that your host university has to offer – use the libraries, go for a run in the fitness center, swim in the pool, unwind in the sauna, and play sports with your newfound friends in the gym.
7. Fuel your school spirit by attending school events
I was not from a UAAP university so when I studied at the University of Arkansas, I realized how sports events can bring the wildest school spirit in you. Calling hogs in football games or just simply doing arts and crafts in the university made me feel like a full-fledged Arkansas Razorback — the University’s very own mascot.
8. Explore your new home country
It’s okay to visit tourist destinations and do touristy things but doing what the locals do is something else. It lets you discover and appreciate the authenticity of your host country or state.
9. Live in the moment
As the saying goes, you only live once. Enjoy each day without having to be afraid of the future. Besides, overthinking about what will happen next will only spoil the “now”. Just breathe and be right where you are.
10. Brace yourself because reverse culture shock is real.
I hate to spoil it to you but you will eventually get more acquainted to your new home and when you come back to your own country, you will find yourself frustrated with things you were not normally annoyed by. Remember that that’s only part of the experience. Find a way how to turn your reverse culture shock into something positive. After all, it’s all about perspective.
For more tips and study abroad hacks, check out more articles here!