Spending a semester or year abroad in college can be the most profound experience of one’s young adult life. Boarding a plane and jetting off to a land unknown is simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. Unearthing courage you never realized you had and pushing yourself further than you thought you ever would are experiences that are rewarding in ways that one can hardly achieve from the comfort and safety of a familiar country and culture.
Some fear that studying abroad is akin to taking a semester off school. They fear that they will miss out on building relationships with professors at their university or waste time abroad that could be better spent interning or building a career at home. However, if one is proactive and strategic about studying abroad, it can be just as useful, or even more so, than spending the time at home. Studying overseas does not have to mean losing out on building your resume. If you want to study abroad, but want to do it in a productive way, here are 5 tips to make the most out of your experience.
Learn a Language
Studying abroad in a country where they speak something other than English can be a great way to pick up or practice another language. Being multilingual is hugely beneficial in today’s world of business and there is no better place to learn a language than in a country where you can practice with native speakers.
Educational establishments abroad, both universities and study abroad institutes, usually have programs set up specifically for exchange students. Often times, they offer volunteer opportunities for students. Although it requires a bit more planning and research, international internships and work experience opportunities are also available. Because of visa restrictions, these will probably be limited to unpaid jobs, but having international work or volunteering experience is a great resume builder. You can contact your host institution’s exchange program coordinator to inquire about opportunities.
Take Relevant Courses
When signing up for courses abroad, choose courses relevant towards your field of study or career goals. Your host institution will probably offer courses your home university does not, so it is a great chance to take location-specific classes. Are you a business major? Take International Accounting. Film major? Take Korean Cinema.
Stay in Contact with Professors
Your professors abroad, just like your professors at home, are a great source of knowledge and wisdom. Just because you are studying abroad doesn’t mean you should slack on your networking duties. Having an overseas connection or two could prove really helpful down the line when you are looking for a recommendation to make you stand out from the pack or for insight into the job market abroad.
Make Friends with Locals
It is easy to spend all your time hanging out with other exchange students while abroad, but really make an effort to meet locals. Your host university might throw events for the purpose of meeting native students, but sometimes you just have to go out and do it on your own. Native friends help you learn to live like a local, speak the language, and leave you with connections, and friendships, after you have left the country.