April is upon us, which means in just about 3 weeks I’ll be hopping on a plane back home to New Jersey–I can’t believe how fast the time has gone by. Being abroad for over 3 months has been a surreal experience and in that time plus my 3 weeks in Germany this past summer I’ve picked up some some useful tips and suggestions for future students planning their own international voyage.
Choosing a location/program:
Obviously a huge part of going abroad is deciding on where you want to go! Depending on your major, I would suggest going somewhere that does not put you off course in finishing your major/required coursework. Try to step out of your comfort zone and travel somewhere you’ve never been.
If you are comfortable speaking a language outside of English I would highly suggest going somewhere where you can fully immerse yourself by speaking the local tongue. This will definitely improve your communication skills and give you a good rep with the locals (depending on where you go, it is your benefit to not be viewed as a complete tourist). However, we are spoiled as Americans because most people in major cities around the world speak good English.
Who are you living and studying with?
This is an extremely important question to consider. This past Summer in Berlin, I was only one of 8 Americans in the entire program. This made my time there unique because I met other students from around the world. In Australia at the CAPA Global Business Institute, my program is completely made up of American students from different uni’s across the US. While it’s nice to meet other American students, it’s easy to get trapped in a social bubble, making it more difficult to meet locals and other international students. If you’re looking to branch out and meet non-Americans, I’d highly recommend doing a semester at a local university. In Sydney, some popular schools are Macquarie University, University of Sydney, and university of technology Sydney. I was fortunate to meet some students at Macquarie and I was amazed by the diversity of the student body. Also, it’s a great way to network and have international contacts across the globe.
If you’re an east coaster looking to escape the brutally cold winter, Australia is the place for you. When I arrived here in January, it was the middle of the Aussie Summer and threeA A months later I’m still comfortably wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Sydney is also close to some of the worlds most amazing beaches. Even in a full semester it’s tough to see all of them!
Worried about leaving home?
A semester seems like a long time to be away from home, but trust me, you’d be surprised on how fast it goes by. This is the perfect age to get away and widen your horizons. Outside of the classroom, you will learn a lot about yourself and pick up knowledge that you can take back home and use for the rest of your life.
Financing Your Trip
Having enough spending money week to week is hard enough at my typical semester at Pitt. While abroad, you will definitely be spending more money than you’re used to whether that be for traveling, grocery shopping, and let’s be honest–at the bar! If you have a job at school or home during breaks, try to be fiscal and create a travel fund that you can dip into during your time abroad. Also take advantage of any scholarship opportunities your school has to offer. At Pitt, there are heaps of funds specifically allocated to students going abroad. I’ve realized that with international explorations, often times you can only see what you can afford. Keep in mind that Sydney is on average an expensive city, so you may be surprised by the prices of items that are normally “cheap” back home.
Moving into your accommodation abroad is similar to your first dorm experience at college. If you have a trustworthy friend going abroad with you, I would highly recommend arranging your room together. Personally, I did not have the best roommate pairing this semester and at times it became a stressful component of my trip. Having a solid roommate will help make your experience much more worthwhile.
I’ve found that exploring a city’s food scene is one of the best way to immerse myself into the culture of the host country. Check online and ask locals for their recommendations and branch out to try new things–even if they may seem weird! You may surprise yourself of the new flavors you discover.
Of course there is so much more advice I can give about studying abroad, but these topics are some of the most important to consider. In my concluding posts, I’ll make sure to mention anything else that comes to mind.