Cultural Preparation for Study Abroad
There are a multitude of "to dos" on your pre-departure checklist, including completing your OIP paperwork, renewing your passport, applying for a visa, worrying about what to pack, scheduling your flight, etc, etc. While attending to all these "must do" items can be time consuming, they are necessary evils for your upcoming overseas adventure.
Another important step that many students forget is the mental and emotional preparation for a semester abroad, which is just as important as all that logistical stuff. Being mentally and emotionally prepared for your time abroad will allow you to get the most from your experience overseas. Below are some tips and exercises to help you maximize your experience.
- Reflect on your reasons for choosing to study abroad. Read The Top Ten Reasons to Study Abroad and then develop your own list.
- Set realistic goals and expectations. Be honest with yourself about this and recognize that you may face challenges along the way. Managing Fears and Expectations
- Do your research! Educate yourself on the history, politics, and culture of your host country and city. Essentials Need to Know Worksheet
- Keep a journal. http://www.education.com/reference/article/recording-study-abroad-experiences/?page=2
- Write a letter to yourself before you leave and keep it in a safe place to read when you return.
- Get involved in your host university and local community. Join a club, volunteer a few hours a week, strike up conversations with locals.
- If you are studying abroad with a friend, make a point to branch out and make new friends. You and your friend will both benefit immensely from an expanded social circle.
- Keep an open-mind and regard differences you encounter with curiosity rather than fear and uncertainty. 7 Lessons for Cross Cultural Understanding
- Try new things!
- Keep in touch with friends and family at home but don't spend every free minute on Skype.
- Remember that it is OK to be homesick from time to time. The Study Abroad Rollercoaster of Emotions.
What's Up with Culture? A comprehensive online cultural training program with pre-departure, in-country, and reentry sections: http://www2.pacific.edu/sis/culture/
Practical information, health and safety, planning tools, and country-specific handbooks: http://www.studentsabroad.com/index.php
Travel tips geared towards women, including everything from safety tips to what to wear: http://www.journeywoman.com/