If this is the first time you’ll be getting ready to study abroad, chances are that you’re still flustered about the whole idea of exploration and living independently. While it’s perfectly normal to be overwhelmed at this stage, make sure to consider these tips so you can prepare well:
Do: Research about the country and city/province you’re visiting
Because there’s always more to what meets the eye, especially when you are in a foreign place. With the Internet at your fingertips, it’s pretty hard to find a stone left unturned (or un-’grammed!) these days. Travel vloggers, former exchange students, and local tour guides are only some examples of the online resources you can consult before you even start packing your bags. Take note of their “fail” moments, the chances they didn’t take, and even the things they wish they’d known before leaving.
Essential info to research: Must-visit spots, local dishes, common modes of transportation in the area, the kind of weather to expect by the time you arrive, any relatives you can visit during your stay, local traditions (if any) and even a little history about the place.
Don’t: Base all your expectations on movies
It’s so easy to cling to ideas that we pick up from movies and the media in general (because directors and producers must have done their research first, right?) Too easy, in fact, that the opportunity to meet amazing people or visit breathtaking places becomes a cause for hesitation instead of excitement.
Truth is, an hour-long movie that was produced for months can only reveal so much about a certain way of life or a whole group of people accurately. Make sure to meet people with an open, eager, and inclusive mindset and politely correct them if they make wrong guesses about your own culture. Win-win!
Alternative: Dig into documentaries. Because these tend to be more factual and accurate than your average movie, a documentary can serve as a strong topic for interesting conversations and become a learning opportunity as well.
Do: Try to learn their language
Making the effort to learn the official language of the country you’re visiting will mean a lot to the new friends you’ll make there. There are just so many cultural aspects that only a native language can uncover about its speakers, so download these language apps, and get busy practicing!
Tip: Though you aren’t expected to become a pro, especially if you’re staying for a short time, start by learning the more common, everyday phrases and practice with a friend. Afterwards, learn how to ask questions that might come in handy (like, “What’s your name?” or “Where is the ______?”)
Do: Practice better time management
Common expectation: Travelling anywhere at any time once you arrive
Reality: By the time you arrive at your host university, there will be so much to do before classes officially start (settling into your dorm or apartment, filling-in paperwork, get-togethers with other new students, etc.) and even more when the semester actually rolls out. Since all these events will influence your original plans, try to work out a time management strategy that works for you so that you’ll still end up with enough time to explore and get a hang of your new environment.
Do: Pack smart, and pack light
Always anticipate that you’ll be coming home with much more than you had when you left. Leave space in your luggage for souvenirs, new clothes you will have bought to adjust to the weather (unless you intend to give them away before leaving), and other knick-knacks that you’ll accumulate with every memorable event
Don’t: Forget to free your phone/camera for new memories
It’s normal to have meet-ups with your closest friends and relatives before leaving, and this will definitely lead to having loads of new photos in your gadgets. Free your storage space by saving these in a hard drive or even on a cloud.