Accepted to a study abroad program? Congratulations! Now keep these things in mind while you are abroad!
WHAT do you need to know while you study abroad?
1. Be in good communication with the “support group” you have in the U.S.
While it is important for you to learn how to be independent while you are studying abroad, it is equally, or oftentimes more, important that you constantly communicate with those from whom you should receive emotional and administrative support – your family, loved ones, and advisors at your home institution. It is surprising to see how many study abroad students forget to give their parents or guardians a call when they arrive in the country in which they plan on staying several weeks or months. Before you depart from the United States, you must have adequate information about the communication method which the locals in the country where you are going mostly use. In some countries, local phones may work the best; in other countries, specific smartphone apps may work the best. Figure out the communication method that works the best in the country or region to which you are going to study abroad, and let your “support group” back home know your new contact information while you are abroad as soon as possible.
2. Respect, respect, respect!
The level of immersion varies a lot from program to program. You may be living with a host family, or in an international student dormitory on campus with other study abroad students; you may be placed in a classroom with everyone who is from your home institution (typical for a faculty-led program), or take classes with local students. Depending on the type and the structure of the study abroad program in which you are participating, you will experience different levels of cultural immersion; however, in all cases, you should be able to respect the culture of the country or region in which you are currently residing. Most importantly, you MUST abide by the laws and regulations as well as cultural norms of your host country AND the academic policies at your host institution. Remember, as a study abroad student, you are expected to represent both your home institution and your country – be a respectful and culturally competent study abroad student ambassador!
3. Grades DO matter!
Yep, that is right! You are there not just to travel around or hang out with new friends, but also to STUDY. The credits you earn from a study abroad program may directly count in your GPA; even if they do not affect your GPA, your future employer and/or graduate school admissions officers will be able to have access to see them. Balancing your academic life and social life while studying abroad is a tough but significant task. Try your best to do well in all of the classes you are taking, do not miss the add/drop and withdrawal deadlines, and avoid any academically unwanted situations. If you find yourself struggling academically, do not be shy or intimidated to ask for help from your professors, instructors, and/or on-site counselors or advisors.
Office of International Programs, Binghamton University