Sharing the Best 5 Tips for a Semester Abroad

By Meaghan Dempsey, UPCES Fall 2013

Studying abroad is probably the best decision you’re going to make during your college career (it was definitely mine). I still remember how I felt once I got my acceptance e-mail and knew I was officially going. I was excited, anxious, and terrified—after the initial exhilaration wore off, all I could think was, WHAT did I get myself into? I had friends that had studied abroad, many of them in Prague, and the advice they gave me is worth passing on. I’ve also learned a thing or two while I’ve been here that I wish I would have known before I came. So with that, here are my Top 5 Tips for Studying Abroad:

1. Embrace being out of your comfort zone. This whole experience is going to be new, weird, uncomfortable, and challenging… but that’s the point. You went abroad because you wanted this life experience. You’re living in a completely different country, immersed in a culture that differs from the one you’re used to. Once you accept that things are going to be different and that the best way to deal with this is to try to adapt, you’ll find the transition will be much easier.

2. Do what you want to do—don’t rely on your friends. People tend to cling to the familiar when they’re in situations they aren’t used to. DON’T do this abroad! Studying abroad is a unique experience and you have a limited amount of time to fit a ton of things in. If there’s something you really want to do or see that your friends aren’t interested in, do or see it anyways. You’ll regret it if you don’t—“fear is temporary, regret is forever.”

3. Never waste a day in bed. Between your school work, your social life, and traveling, being abroad is going to run you down and wear you out. The most important thing anyone told me was to take advantage of every day you have, because when it’s all over you’ll be glad you did the most that you could. You’ll have time to sleep when you’re bored at home after you get back to the States.

4. Make an effort to meet new people. This includes not only the people on your program, but people on other programs, locals in your home city, locals in the cities you visit, etc. You’ll find that everyone studying abroad has a similar mindset to yours; after all, choosing to go abroad is something you all already have in common. The people you study with will become your abroad family, and not only is making new friends always a good thing, but it will make you less homesick, and will make the whole experience much more fun. The locals you meet can show you around and make your experience more authentic and less touristy.

5. Take advantage of your home city (especially if that city is Prague). Don’t rush to make all of your travel plans the first week! This was my biggest mistake. You chose to study in your respective city for a reason, and the more time you spend there, the more home-y it will feel. You will also appreciate your city a lot more because you’ll know its ins and outs and see why it’s special and unique. My favorite weekends abroad have been the ones I’ve spent in Prague, and I love the feeling of getting back home after a weekend of traveling.

Making the most of all the aspects of studying abroad will heighten your overall experience. If you do it right, this will be the best semester of your life.