Many students make mistakes that keep them from getting the most out of their study abroad experience. Although it is impossible to prevent you from making all mistakes, the following five ‘Don’ts’ will help you make the most of your adventure abroad!
1. Don’t Limit Yourself: Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
While in a host country, many students limit their experiences to the arrangements made by their study abroad programs. Although your program may provide you with excursions into the local community and trips to various scenic spots, you may not gain that unique and personal experience you’re looking for, until you explore on your own. Do not limit yourself to the plans others have laid out for you. Follow your instinct and step out of your comfort zone. You never know what you can accomplish or what opportunities exist until you push yourself beyond what you are used to. So take heart and take advantage of every situation.
2. Don’t Make Assumptions
You have read travel guides and watched documentaries on your host country. You talked to friends or classmates who have studied abroad and even met people from the destination to which you’re traveling. Now you know everything you need to know to possess a proper perspective of the people and the culture, right? Wrong!! No one person's experience, no book, no documentary is enough to present you with a comprehensive understanding of any culture or people. Carrying assumptions of life in a different country only limits your ability to fully adapt, accept and perceive the uniqueness and beauty of every individual and encounter. Have an open mind and try not to fit your experience into your preconceived notions.
3. Don’t Limit Yourself to English Speakers
Unless you are going to an English-speaking country, knowing a little of the local language can go a long way. Knowing a few phrases can serve as an icebreaker and a way to connect with the locals in your host country. Locals are often ecstatic and appreciative of students who take an interest in their language. Often a simple “Hello” or “How are you doing?” will be all you need to strike up a conversation with any passersby and create an opportunity for a new friendship.
4. Don’t go it alone, Develop relationships
Studying abroad can be an overwhelming experience. There’s no reason to go through the experience alone. Once abroad, it is important to have a support unit in place. Form a cohort with other students in your program. Having a group to work with will provide you with the support needed to successfully navigate your program.
Last but not least…
5. Don’t Worry Be Happy!
You will many mistakes while studying abroad. The key is not to worry about it, mistakes can be good. People make mistakes when learning new things. If you are not making some mistakes, then you are not progressing as much as you could be.
Guest blogger Antonio Reyes generously wrote this content specifically for CEA. He is the Student Services Representative at Diversity Abroad.
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