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Top 10 Study Abroad Tips for Students

Study Abroad Tips by Stage of LifeRecommendations for Teens Thinking of Studying Abroad

Study abroad is a popular option for students these days to travel the world while still pursuing their education. It is an immensely valuable experience, and it looks awesome on a resume for colleges and universities or jobs post-graduation.  But studying abroad requires an enormous amount of thought and preparation, so Stage of Life' has compiled a list of the top 10 tips for students thinking of studying abroad.

by Katie Nelo, Stage of Life Editorial Intern (and post travel abroad student)

Study Abroad Tip #1: Why Why Why?

Why Study Abroad?How will studying abroad benefit you?

Lots of students would immediately jump at the chance to study in a foreign country, whether in high school or in college. But choosing this manner of study requires some advanced thinking and planning. Before you even ask for any information pamphlet, understand the reasons why you might want to study abroad. How will it benefit you, whether in the immediate future or years down the road?

Of course, the experience will look awesome on a resume, and you will be experiencing a culture that many your own age might not have experienced. But how do you think
you will personally grow?

Additionally, understand the difficulties you might encounter while being so far away from home for an extended period of time. Be sure to talk it over with someone who will be honest and tell you if they think you’re jumping into something too soon or for the wrong reasons.

Study Abroad Resources - Benefits

Study Abroad Tip #2: Your Program Makes a Difference

Study Abroad ProgramsTravel, Study, Volunteer?

Not all study abroad programs are created equal, and students all go for different reasons, whether it is to do the traditional study abroad, to teach in a different culture, or to volunteer.  Know your program inside and out so you’re not committed to a study abroad experience you might not be too excited with.

Study Abroad Resources - Program Types

Study Abroad Tip #3: Timing is Everything

Impact of your travel abroad program on your academics?

Talking to an advisor can help you understand when the best time for you to study abroad is. Improper planning of a study abroad experience could result in your having to do extra classes when you get back, or even push your college graduation date back further. Understand how it will affect your education prior to your leaving and after you return. Also be aware of major events you might miss while being away, whether in school or in your personal life. Choose carefully!

Study Abroad Resources - Academic Impact

Study Abroad Tip #4: Keep Mom Calm

Keep Mom CalmHave you talked with your parents?

Let your parents in on your plans as much as you possibly can. Give them all the information and research you have done so they understand what you will be doing as well. Remember, you’re still their baby, and it can be extremely nerve wracking and stressful for them to let you go so far away alone (my own mother wailed and held me in the airport so long that I almost missed the plane). Be gentle with them and keep them in the loop to ease their stress.

Might I also suggest that this would be an excellent time to teach mom and dad how to use social media? Facebook, Twitter, Skype; all of these will be helpful (and cheap) ways to keep in touch with you. They’ll also enter the realm of being the awesome and technologically savvy parents which will keep them happy.

Finally, no one likes to think of the worst case scenario. But if you have an emergency while abroad, your parents might be one of your only lifelines. I would suggest letting your parents have access to your bank account, traveling papers, and copies of all information they might need here at home.

Study Abroad Resources - Parents

Study Abroad Tip #5: Your bill, Sir

Study Abroad ExpensesDo you know all of the costs involved in studying abroad?

The cost of such a fun experience (studying abroad is amazingly fun) is not always pleasant to ponder, but it is necessary. Understand the costs before you apply to the program. The cost of the study abroad will depend on the program you choose, especially if there is a work or volunteer component to it. Get the figures, look it over with your parents, and devise the best plan of action in order to pay. Yes, it is expensive. But often times, the benefits you will get out of the experience are well worth the daunting bill.

Do not hope and wish that money for you to study abroad will magically fall from the sky. Start applying for scholarships and don’t wait until the last minute to apply. Colleges especially provide a lot of financial aid to students who want to study abroad. Sometimes, the costs are about equal to what you would pay for tuition during a normal semester.

Start searching!

Study Abroad Resources - Costs and Scholarships

Study Abroad Tip #6: Google is Your Best Friend

Research your study abroad desintationHave you researched your travel abroad destination?

I cannot express enough how important it is to research the area you will be living in. Having the upper hand in what is close and available to you as well as resources to help you while living in a foreign country is extremely valuable. When I say research, I mean hospitals, schools, police stations, airports and train stations, banks, things to do, etc.

In addition to knowing the area you will be living in, it is also helpful to research how to get to said area. Start googling how to get around the country you’ll be living in- either by plane, train, or boat (you’ll be surprised how often you might run into this option).

Study Abroad Resources - Destination Research

Study Abroad Tip #7: Accidents & Emergencies

Study Abroad emergenicesDo you have travel insurance?

Again, everyone hates to think of negative things that could happen while you’re abroad. But planning what to do in emergencies before you leave can be a huge relief for everyone involved. Consider insurance; many study abroad programs have an insurance option, both in the sense of lost luggage or lost experience (if you need to return home early for an emergency). There will be extra cost with it, but many argue the peace of mind is well worth it.

Research what to do in health emergencies, accommodations for disabilities, and the hospital system in the country you’ll be living in. Based on personal experience (I had to go when a friend accidentally cut her hand while preparing dinner), it’s really helpful to have some kind of knowledge beforehand of what to expect in a foreign hospital just because it can be slightly intimidating upon arrival.

Study Abroad Resources - Health Insurance and Emergencies

Study Abroad Tip #8: Avoiding the Ugly American Syndrome

Are you ready to let go of your old habits and try something new?

I often suggest to people to do a little research on the particular culture they will be living in. I feel like it need not be said, but somehow, it always needs to be: it is a different culture. Planning on your American daily habits (aka, ways of dressing, what you eat, how and what you say) might leave you feeling a bit awkward at times. Blending in as best you can might help you feel more comfortable.

There is always one person in the group of American students studying abroad who compares everything to how it is back home, wears baseball caps and sweatshirts to class in Europe, talks really loudly at locals in English (as if getting louder will help). I might be pulling from the stereotypes a bit and, again, it seems like an obvious fact, but do not be surprised when you get there and things actually are different.

Remember...you're there to embrace and explore a new culture.

Study Abroad Resources - Culture Tips

Study Abroad Tip #9: The Little Stuff

Study Abroad - the Little Stuff Matters

Is your cell phone plan ready for international travel?

You wouldn’t believe the little things you take advantage of during your daily life. Clocks, cellphones, weather reports, even electricity: all this is affected when you travel abroad. Think through a normal day and try to figure out the little things you will need to feel comfortable away from home.

Some of my suggestions:

  • Consider an international cellphone plan if you have a smart phone so you can continue to use your alarm, get your weather updates, and use the internet (again, another cost that needs to be factored in).
  • Make sure you also have access to internet wherever you are; usually this is not a problem if you are staying on a campus or in a private residence, but you might need to visit an internet café that are more common in other parts of the world than in America.
  • Be sure to buy proper adapters for the wall outlets as they don’t use the same three pronged outlets we use in America. Ladies, a word of caution; be careful with your hair styling tools when you plug them in overseas. My outlet overloaded my hair straightener which resulted in fried hair.

Study Abroad Resources - The Little Stuff

Study Abroad Tip #10: Blog About Your Travels!

Share your travel abroad storyReady to inspire others to travel abroad?

Keeping a journal or even better, blogging, about your travel abroad experience is a great way to pass along your insights, share your wisdom, and inspire others to consider traveling aboard.  If you want to reach a larger audience with your travel abroad stories (200,000+ readers), be sure to blog here on Stage of Life.

Our mission is to change the world, one story at a time, so the Stage of Life blogging community is a perfect place to inspire others with blog posts of your travel aboard adventures.  From your personal traveling tales, whether hilarious or completely horrific, to a recap of your experience to additional tips we didn't capture here on this list, we'd love to hear from you before, during or after your travel abroad experience.

Take a moment to read Katie's travel abroad story or upload your own now...


Other Study Abroad Tips?

Contact Stage of LifeWe know there's got to be other study abroad tips and recommendations for student travelers.  If you've been abroad or are currently in the process of planning a travel abroad experience, please contact us with other tips we should add to this list.

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