Off-campus study is enriching — but, as with any immersion experience, there are a lot of questions too. Interim Director of Off-Campus Studies and veteran traveler Sue Davis offers some tips for students.
Learn as much as you can before you go!
Lots of people find change and difference challenging. Challenge is good! It helps you learn. But you need to keep it manageable. So read up on the locations you’ll be traveling in before you go. Look at guidebooks, read travel blogs, watch YouTube videos, read travel literature, buy a phrasebook and learn to say please, thank you, and other key phrases before you go. This will help you feel more in control, reduce anxiety, prepare you for the location so you can maximize your experience and reduce the likelihood of unfortunate surprises.
You will encounter different people and ways of doing things. Go with the flow. Don’t resist and retreat behind tropes like “that’s not how we do it at home” – instead engage and enjoy the differences.
You don’t need lots of stuff. The less you bring, the fewer hassles. You’ll have to carry your luggage in train stations, airports, hotels, and on cobblestone or dirt streets. Many hotels don’t have elevators. So only bring what you need and then cut that in half!
Get out of your Bubble: Stay with a Host Family.
You won’t learn much if you hang out with other Americans. Stay with a host family and learn about language and culture. Develop close relationships with locals and get out of your comfort zone. The experience will be transformational.
There will be ups and downs, be ready for them!
Studying and living abroad is wonderful and stressful. Some days you will really miss home but those days pass. Keep that in perspective.