Moving abroad for the summer, a semester, or even longer in some instances is a great opportunity that many students are able to take advantage of while in school. A study abroad program allows you to spread your wings and take in the cultural heritage of a brand new place. Some students opt for a program that brings them to Western Europe and takes every opportunity to travel around the continent while there. Others chose a program that brings them even farther afield and takes the time to really “steep” in their surroundings.
Whatever your intention, a study abroad program can achieve many ends, but getting the most out of the experience is often a matter of utilizing some of these top tips.
Understand your learning objectives.
One of the best ways to ensure that your study abroad program is a smashing success is to understand and prioritize your learning objectives. Many students go abroad with a murky outlook on what they hope to achieve while on the program. This is a mistake and one that can grow into a huge detriment in a hurry if you aren’t careful. Hundreds of thousands of American college students participate every year in study abroad programs all over the world—including Antarctica!
Some are engaged in program-specific research that is closely linked with their ongoing collegiate studies while others engage in language learning opportunities that bolster their resume and area studies background. No matter what type of learning you will be doing, it’s essential to distill the lessons that you want to take away from the experience before getting on the plane in the first place.
This is one lesson that high schoolers learn through participation in early study abroad and social participation. One space that these students learn to leverage resume-building opportunities is with an NSHSS membership. The National Society of High School Scholars conducts many network-building opportunities every year, and NSHSS members are able to take advantage of many high-quality learning experiences. While some detractors might think there is some sort of NSHSS scam in the works, members take great pride in their active participation and the opportunities they find in society.
Language programs offer a unique experience for those who are able to roll with the punches.
An immersive language program, for instance, will give you a great opportunity to internalize vocabulary, practice forming sentences on the page and in the streets, and give you greater command over your natural cognitive abilities in the language more broadly. Yet students are often frustrated when their structured, formal education in Spanish, Arabic, or Mandarin Chinese doesn’t translate as cleanly into everyday use as they might have hoped. When this happens, some students shut down and let a wave of culture shock stun them for days or weeks at a time.
It’s important to remember that your in-class language learning is centered around textbook vocabulary and sentence structure, while language out in the real world is more fluid, full of discrepancies, and anchored by colloquialisms and shorthand.
The same goes for your native English, but the average speaker simply overlooks the informality of their own speech because it occurs in virtually every encounter we make with one another. Using the best language app out there can help you smooth out these edges before touching down in a new and exciting place. Belatone is a great option for language learners because it gives them the ability to converse with native speakers rather than simply memorizing endless vocabulary lists and working them mechanically into sentences. Language is fluid, immersive, and adaptive. Remembering this and practicing in a way that provides you with a natural approach to skill-building within the language are great ways to become more advanced and confident in your language usage in order to take full advantage of the study abroad opportunity before you.
With these tips in mind, making the most of your experience can give you a lifetime of great memories.