its fair to say I knew nothing about studying abroad before I studied abroad. the way my journey started was a conversation with my dad in the car as he was driving me back downtown after a weekend back home. I was struggling because I felt college wasn’t for me and I was just down. I spent every weekend at home hiding from what was occurring on campus. But my struggles with college life isn’t the point of the post. this conversation we had went along the lines of “maybe you should try studying abroad” and I went back to my dorm and applied. yup. didn’t look into it. I just did it. it was also two weeks before the application was due.
so from that comes some recommendations:
- look into your program. this may seem like an obvious tip, but really every program is different. my program that I applied to was an exchange that was extremely hands off meaning everything was on me from housing to classes. had I known what I know now I probably still would have picked exchange, but there are more structured options if panicking isn’t your thing.
- focus most on the destination. this is one thing I did RIGHT. if you are doing a professor led program (like a degree specific program) then obviously the class is the most important. but if you have the choice between places, really look into that place even if they don’t have the program you’re in. more often than not you can get your credits to transfer as electives. I don’t know if I would have gotten as much out of my program had I not been in Brighton.
- take a cheap flight. I feel like all of these are obvious, but some people still don’t know that British Airways isn’t the only way to get to england! my dad and I took a west jet flight through toronto that was like $500. save money on studying abroad everywhere you can.
- sit in coffee shops. this is probably random, but once you have made the choice and you have taken that flight to your destination, take time to sit in some local coffee shops even if it is just a starbucks (because yes, those are everywhere). I found this to be some of the most enlightening times because coffee culture is different everywhere.
- talk to strangers. this is the exact opposite of what your mother taught you as a child but it is really the only way you will enjoy the time you’re abroad. I met strangers that ended up altering my trip in the best way (you can read about my experience with one of them here)
- take classes that interest you. when you are abroad everything is different, especially in the way classes are taught so make sure to take classes that are going to be worth your effort. I found myself caring more about my video and graphic design classes than my human anatomy and it reflected in my work.
- know the differences in education. this again, may seem obvious but i didn’t even think about this until i was freaking out about my grades near the end. studying in england i discovered that an A is almost physically impossible. Getting my very first paper back i almost started crying when a 64% was staring me straight in the face; turns out it was one of the better grades in the class.