Back to School: Tips for studying abroad

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Study abroad programs can change students’ lives, opening their eyes to other cultures and helping them to make memories that last a lifetime. Study abroad programs also may inspire a love of travel that students will foster for the rest of their lives.

Students who have enrolled in or are considering enrolling in study abroad programs can make their experiences overseas more memorable if they take some time to prepare for life abroad before boarding the plane.

Learn about your host country. Students who can successfully assimilate into their host countries may get more from their time overseas than those who do not. Studying a host country’s customs and history is a great way to learn about life there before your plane touches down.

If the native language in your host country is different than your own, do your best to learn the language. While you won’t become fluent overnight, learning some basic words and phrases can make your time overseas go more smoothly and increase the chances that you develop meaningful relationships with locals.

Enthusiastically leave your comfort zone. Daily life might be vastly different in your host country than it is at home. Rather than dwelling on the differences between life overseas and life at home, embrace this chance to leave your comfort zone.

Approach cultural differences with enthusiasm instead of skepticism, even trying local cuisine you might otherwise not experience back home.

“I ate bingsu that was the size of my head,” said Caitlyn Bahm of Collierville, who is studying abroad in Seoul this summer. She explained that it’s a really popular summer dessert made of ice cream, shaved ice, condense milk, red beans (a common ingredient in many dishes) and cereal with toppings. Photo by Caitlyn Bahm.

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Get out of the dorm. Study abroad programs include the word “study” in their titles, so students should recognize they will still need to devote time to their schoolwork. But during your down time, embrace chances to get out of your dorm room or apartment to soak in your host city.

If your host country is in Europe, where traveling between countries tends to be simpler than in other regions of the world, learn about neighboring countries and do your best to visit some during your time overseas.

Disconnect from your devices. Whether or not life at home is dominated by devices, use your time overseas to disconnect so you can fully experience your host city and country. Don’t miss out on the sights and sounds of your host country by spending too much time using your tablet or smartphone.

Keep a journal. One of the best ways to commemorate your time abroad is to keep a daily journal. You will no doubt enjoy many unique experiences while overseas, and keeping a daily journal is a great way to ensure you remember each of those experiences and all the people you meet along the way.

Study abroad programs can benefit students in myriad ways, and a few simple strategies can ensure young men and women make the most of their time overseas.

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Editor’s note: For a look at a travel blog by a Mid-South college student, visit TheBahm.com. It’s written and photographed by Caitlyn Bahm, a Collierville High School graduate and student at Ohio State University. She’s currently in Seoul, South Korea, on a six-week program to study the language and learn more about the culture. She is studying at Korea University through the International Studies Abroad program.