Studying abroad? Get the full experience
The spring semester is nearing its end and some students are packing up for a summer abroad or making plans to study abroad this fall.
George Eves is founder of Expatinfodesk.com, a comprehensive online resource for expats and anyone considering international relocation.
So, if you are in the group saying goodbye to the United States and getting ready to sample life as a student abroad, here are some of George's top travel tips.
Live like a local
There is no point in traveling across the world to study abroad if you are simply going to do everything in the same way that you do things at home. All too often students form their own Little America in their host country and then proceed to eat at the same global restaurant chains they frequent at home, limit their social group to encompass people from the US, and spend their time complaining about the fact that things are done differently in the host country. Well, as the saying goes, when in Rome do as the Romans do!
Of course it's perfectly fine to tune into "American Idol" every now and again, but try to make some local friends, sample the cuisine and make a conscious effort to learn about the culture and people of your host country.
Find meet-up groups on social networking sites such as Facebook to find events to participate in and meet new people. Not only will you get the most out of your experience abroad, but it could also make you far more interesting on a date.
If you get the opportunity to live with a local family, consider seizing it, especially if they live in a central location. Not only will this help you to save money, it will also give you an opportunity to get a real taste of the local culture. It will allow you to practice your language skills in a safe environment with people who can help you.
Know and live by the local laws
Just because you are from a different area of the world doesn't mean that the laws of the host country don't apply to you. You could find yourself in deep trouble if you flaunt the law in your host country. Many local authorities will be keen to make an example of any foreigners behaving badly.
If you're taking the big step of venturing abroad, remember that you are on your own and you can't always rely on your parents who are in another country, potentially across an ocean.
Read as much as you can in advance, make sure you thoroughly understand the rules and customs of your host country and don't expect an American passport to be enough to get you out of a fix. Think before you act -- if something seems like a bad idea then it probably is.
Expect some setbacks
There's every possibility that you will experience some type of culture shock and there are bound to be times when you feel a little homesick. Don't give up at the first hurdle; acknowledge that the feelings you are experiencing are entirely normal and that they will pass. There is a potential that you will never have this opportunity again, so try and make the most of it.
Research the best ways to communicate with your friends and family back home. For example, help your parents set up a Skype account so you can speak with them when you are feeling homesick without breaking the bank.
Fail to plan, plan to fail
The word "research" is enough to instantly send most students into a coma. However, we really can't overstress the importance of carefully preparing for your move overseas in advance. Read people's blogs, buy a city guide and learn as much as you can about the place you will be living in before you go. Don't wait until you arrive in your host country to find out important details, such as if the medication you are dependent upon is available there and where you should go if you have a medical emergency. If you are moving to another English-speaking country, don't automatically assume that the people and culture will be the same as your own.
One final piece of advice
If there's one thing you should do before you go, it's visit the dentist for a full check-up. The last thing you want is someone armed with a drill looking in your mouth when you don't have the first idea what they are actually saying.
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April 15, 2010; 6:10 PM ET
Categories: News Overload | Tags: Study abroad
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