Written by ESC ADMIN on 07 May 2020 Posted in Blog
Going overseas as a student can be incredibly daunting and stressful because you'll want to soak up as much as you can while adjusting to a new environment. When you first moved overseas to study as an undergraduate, you will be so anxious and overwhelmed by the city that you have held on a pedestal that you missed out on a lot of opportunities to really embrace the culture.
By the time you return for graduate school a few years later, you will be better equipped to interact with the local culture and understand the nuances of the language and the people that surrounds you -- something that is crucial to getting the most out of your overseas experience. The below list are mistakes one can make and witness others make, and by avoiding them you are sure to return home with a fresh outlook and stories to tell for years to come.
1. Not learning the local language brushing up on useful phrases before you go gives you a great head start when you go abroad but engaging with locals is the best way to really master a language. Forcing yourself to speak the local language with anyone from your barista to the butcher would make you feel relaxed with the intricacy, slang and vernacular language— All that you can't learn in a classroom just as quickly. While letting them practice their English with you may be tempting, you'll have a much more enriching experience and learn more from them in their native language. Remember: it takes time to learn a language and you can stumble from time to time but the local people definitely appreciate the effort.
2. Making Friends Only with Your Home Country Students And English-speaking students can be soothing companions while living overseas, especially when it comes to dealing with the same cultural barriers and red tape bureaucracy. But reaching out and trying to make friends with students from the country you're studying in is crucial to really experiencing a foreign country. These friendships are also a low-stress way of learning the language with someone who can correct your errors and pronunciation over a couple of glasses of wine (which is much better than a classroom, however).
3. Traveling too much with many low-cost airlines and train routes available across Europe, packing your bags and heading to another nearby city as soon as the weekend reaches can be tempting. But in terms of entertainment, nightlife, and weekend events, this endless traveling can mean you miss out on enjoying what the city you're living in offers. Perhaps at the end of your block, on Sunday mornings, there's a trendy open-air market, or a club that turns into a weekend concert venue. Staying put rather than traveling, rather than many brief short encounters, offers a much deeper experience of one culture and region. This also helps to create deeper connections with those that you meet in the city.
4. Not staying with a Host Family If this is provided by your study abroad program — as many do — don't pass on the chance to stay with host family. Host families have deep immersion in the language and can make living in a foreign country feel as home much faster than it would otherwise. Often, host families are experienced to welcome students to their homes and recognize what challenges and triumphs you may experience in your study. Many host families often have a number of meals a week, which means you're sure to regularly experience authentic home cooking. All of this will provide you additional support over an extended lifespan and studying abroad.
5. Failing to Balance Classroom Instruction & Cultural Immersion With the city you are in, the best study abroad programs combine classroom lessons with real-life applications. This ranges from literature to theatre, to film, and from a cultural and historical point of view will help you soak the region. When studying abroad for research, don't let the homework overwhelm you to the point that you don't even get the chance to explore the city around you. The best learning experience there can often be only walking the city and talking with locals.
The most important thing to note is to keep an open mind and be flexible when things don't go as expected — because most often things won't go as expected. Locals will appreciate your effort to adapt to their culture and will sometimes (let them!) teach you stuff along the way. Surely it can be difficult to travel to a foreign country by yourself; you're going to gain experiences, well worth it!