Studying abroad is a term that is used widely throughout the United States and most especially on college campuses. As an experience that provides so much learning, how could it not be?
Often, I feel people do not understand what is necessarily meant by the term “Studying Abroad.” This term is compared incorrectly to the standard idea of a classroom setting of learning that we as American’s are so used to.
That setting is definitely not the case. This is not your college schedule and lifestyle just carried out in another country. This is learning through doing and experiencing!
So here are a few challenges of mine that I feel will enhance your time abroad.
1. Get Lost
The best way to get to know the unique qualities of a city is to let the city take you. Put away the maps, look up from your phone, take a few questionable turns, and you will be sure to end up in an unexpected secret of your city. Getting lost also happens when you are using a map, but we all get better with time. At the end of the trip you will be confident on your own in an unfamiliar place because you will spend a lot of time strengthening essential skills like this while abroad.
2. Try the questionable restaurant in the alley.
Being abroad is all about trying new things and immersing yourself in cultures. Taking risks is so essential to this. Stopping off at a run-down restaurant instead of the big tourist chains can often times lead to the most authentic food of your time abroad. And other times can lead to food poisoning but understanding what places are ok to take a chance on is part of traveling.
3. Lose the phone.
No, I do not mean this literally. In fact, I have personal experience with this and I can strongly advise you NOT to lose your phone. But it is okay to leave it at the hotel, or keep it in the purse every now and then. Looking around you and not through the lens of a camera is good for you. Your phone is indeed not your lifeline and a day without it helps you immerse yourself in your travels. This also allows you to appreciate the amazing and ever so helpful qualities that your phone has to offer on a daily basis or in a pinch.
Ultimately you cannot anticipate what will happen in life. No amount of planning will help you control every situation. In those circumstances where you are caught off guard and facing a challenge it is essential to approach them calmly and with an open mind. This is a learning experience at its finest.
You will get lots of questions from your friends and family about your time abroad. One question I have received a few times is “Do you ever actually STUDY when you study abroad?” This question makes me laugh because on top of the time I do in fact spend in a classroom, I learn even more on the weekends when I travel.
You will be learning skills that are not teachable in a classroom. You will learn and begin to understand new cultures, new languages, new social settings. You gain independence at a whole new level. On top of the things you learn while traveling and sightseeing, there is much to learn on the planning aspect. Booking flights, reserving accommodations, planning itineraries and communicating with people you travel with is a huge process. Ultimately all of these learned skills help you and lead you in your next professional setting.
So despite some people assuming you are away wasting your time playing around in foreign countries, you will really become a more marketable and overall much more valuable asset to your future employer. You will for sure have a few good stories to tell in the interview at least!
The world awaits…discover it.