Tip #1: Do a lot of research beforehand.
Google will be your best friend as you try to figure out your new home away from home. Do some research into the country’s culture, climate, history, and even social issues. Familiarize yourself with the community that you will live in by using Google Maps, travel blog articles, or even student testimonials. The more you know about the place, the more prepared you can be for your transfer psychologically.
Tip #2: Be respectful of the culture.
Accept early on that you are in a society that is different from your own. Whether you like it or not, as a representative of your own country, what you do and how you act reflects how the locals perceive Filipinos to be. What you think is ‘common sense’ may not apply there. Locals appreciate international students that go out of their way to learn about the local social cues. You have to be very aware of the mannerisms and customs that are deemed respectful or disrespectful to the people in order to assimilate easier into their society.
Tip #3: Take time to learn and speak the language.
Students who go the extra mile to study and really become fluent in the local dialect or language get a whole different experience of studying abroad. Once you speak like a native, you connect with them on a heart-to-heart level. You learn more from the locals that you meet because they tell you all their stories and struggles. At the same time, you also get to share your own stories and ideas with them. Becoming fluent in a foreign language also gives you an additional skill which leads to more job opportunities for you in whatever field you are interested in.
Tip #4: Get involved with the locals.
Yes, there’s merit in involving oneself in student activities day-in and day-out but there are different lessons learned once you step outside of campus. Interacting with locals through volunteer activities, part-time work, home-stay, or just for social interaction gives you a peek into the realities that the locals face. Interacting with local kids and high-school students is a lot of fun too!
Tip #5: Compare less and focus on the positives.
When we see something different from our previous experiences, our brains are wired to compare what the Philippines has or doesn’t have versus and what the other country offers. Comparing one thing to another can lead to a lot of disappointment or frustration but the most productive thing for us to do is to focus on the positive points that both countries offer. Let the negative points that you’ve seen become action points that you learn to fight against or act upon. Learn to dwell on the positive points and try to turn off that tendency of ours to compare everything.
Tip #6: Ask for help and also help others.
Helping other people out is in the DNA of human beings. There should be no shame in asking for help since 99% of the time there are plenty of people who are willing to help you out. What is important is communicating to others what you need help with. Sometimes it can be quite humbling an experience to ask for help but you’d be surprised as to how many people would go out of their way to make sure you’re okay. In return, show a small token of appreciation or a sincere letter. Help others whenever you can as well – no action is too small.
Tip #7: Do as many things as you can.
Studying abroad for a few months or a few years may initially feel like a long time but you should make every moment count. Travel to as many places as possible. Participate in as many activities both on and off campus, as you can. Make a new friend every single day. Learn 5 new phrases a day and use them. Talk to that cute guy or girl that you’ve been crushing on. Learn to live without regrets and seize each day! Before you realize it, your study abroad experience is about to end and you don’t want to leave without any regrets.
Tip #8: Be open to change.
Very slowly, you will realize that you yourself have changed – especially when you return back home. This is because you’ve realized a lot more things about yourself and possibly even your purpose in this world. You’ll find yourself thinking differently and acting differently and that’s not a bad thing. Take this study abroad opportunity as a time for you to develop yourself and become a better person. Shed off the negative sides within yourself and keep the positive habits and lessons within yourself. This positive growth will be reflected in how you interact with others and in what you do. Share that positivity around.
Camille Armas was a scholar and now graduate Ritsumeikan Asia-Pacific University (APU), Japan where she completed her degree in International Relations. She was able to participate in fundraising activities and charity projects for the Philippines and for other countries. She is now working for Edukasyon.ph in promoting study abroad opportunities to other Filipino youth.
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