What kind of experience do I want?
Examples: Non-traditional, Service learning, Course Related, Intensive Language, etc.
Now days there are multiple options to choose from in regards to an International Education experience. The most obvious is studying abroad but even within study abroad, programs vary and there is an option out there to meet every ones needs. From semester to summer to short-term faculty-led programs or services learning to academic based programs the options are limitless. Do your research and find out what study abroad program is right for you. More so international experiences are not just limited to studying abroad. Students can chose from volunteer opportunities, teaching or internships, where you can focus on professional development skills on an international level. Additionally, if you are considering post-graduate opportunities, why not look at graduate or research programs abroad?! The options are endless!
What do I want to get out of this experience?
Examples: Growth, Independence, Language, Friends, etc.
It’s important to go into your international experience knowing what you want to get out of it. There are of course the obvious goals such as receiving credit for courses, learning a language, but it’s important to think beyond the obvious. What challenges do you want to overcome or what fears do you want to face? How can you go about making the most of your experience? Perhaps if language acquisition is a goal of yours, look into opportunities to learn outside of the classroom, i.e. language exchange events, living at a home stay, etc. If you’d like to gain a greater sense of independence, try to do things outside of your program and don’t stick to just hanging out with other American students or students who are on the same program as you. Make it a point to venture out and try new things on your own and take the road less traveled. It is inevitable that you will walk away with a wealth of knowledge and experiences but its helps knowing what things are important to achieve before you go so you can make the most of your experience while you’re actually abroad.
What do I know about the country?
Examples: Cultural Norms, Language, Religion, Food, etc.
Whether it is for a summer, two weeks or a year, it is essential to learn about the country you will be living, studying or working in. Not only is it important to learn about the culture, food, politics, etc. to better prepare yourself but the initial research process is a great way to get excited about your new adventure. Before I moved to Buenos Aires to teach English I literally researched the city inside out where for about two months prior to my move (if not longer). So when I arrived I knew exactly what each neighborhood was popular for, the type of food I would be eating, the transportation system and the Argentinean Castellano, among other things. I was not 100% percent prepared for everything (are you ever?), but my initial research definitely made my transition process a lot smoother and I was super excited to finally be seeing in person all of the things I had researched about. So make sure to do your research prior to going!
How can I keep track of all the things I’ll do abroad?
Examples: Journal, Photos, Blogs, etc.
During your time abroad you’ll experience so many different things, make lasting friendships, see wonderful art, and those memorable nights that turned into tomorrow, and how will you remember all of it?! It is essential to try to take note of your experience because unfortunately the memory does fade and you’ll want to remember all of those fabulous moments during your time abroad. I think journaling is the most classic and efficient way of jotting down life events. It’s easy to carry around with you, which is nice as you’ll feel inspired to write at any given moment. It’s always nice to find an old journey and flip through and travel back to your past. Some other options include blogging and photography. Travel blogs are becoming more and more popular and it’s a great way to share your experience with other students as well as your family and friends back home (sometimes you can get scholarship money for it!). Lastly, what better way to capture a moment than in a picture? They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Photographing your experience is a great way to that artistic outlet and also a fun way to share your experience when you return home!