Although the study abroad process can seem overwhelming at times, I guarantee that the journey is so worth it! I studied in France for a semester and in Germany two years later, and I’m here to offer you my two cents on how to make the most of your study abroad experience!
My first piece of study abroad advice is related to funding your experience: Apply to lots of scholarships!
There are so many scholarships and grants available to students studying abroad, so spend time exploring those options. Make sure to verify your eligibility before applying to any! Proofread all of your essays and have others look over them, too! This requires planning and time management, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time. I myself applied to dozens of scholarships, and received several, so I can tell you from experience that it pays off! Look for scholarships through your university, through your program provider (AIFS offers multiple!), and through outside sources like Diversity Abroad or the Gilman Scholarship. Scholarships and grants can help take some of the financial burden off to help make your study abroad dream a reality!
The rest of my advice is related to your time abroad.
1. Get out of your comfort zone!
This is the time to do so if there ever was one! Go do all the things you’ve been wanting to but have been putting off. Visit new places. Practice a new language. Meet new people! Explore on your own. Getting out of your comfort zone is the key to growth!
2. Make the most out of every opportunity.
If you get free tickets to a symphony, attend. If you get a chance to visit Berlin’s Christmas markets, go. If you get the privilege of hearing from a Holocaust Survivor, engage. When you get the opportunity to speak your host language, do your best! Go to all the museums that interest you! This is the chance of a lifetime! These are opportunities only available for a limited time, so take advantage of them!
3. Become friends with locals.
This allows you to learn from a native about the culture, politics, customs, traditions, etc. Plus, it’s a great way to practice the host language. Locals can also show you hidden gems that the ordinary tourist might not get to see!
4. Do not neglect your classes!
Whether you can take Pass/Fail or whether your classes count towards your GPA, maintaining good attendance in class is super important. Remember you already paid for these classes, so you might as well go and get your money’s worth. Don’t forget that you are studying abroad, not just traveling. Make sure to maintain a balance between the two. You don’t want your trip to be ruined by failing a course just because you failed to attend and do your work. You should have plenty of time to explore, just not at the expense of your courses.
So, to summarize, here is my advice as a study abroad alumnus:
- Apply to lots of scholarships—in advance!
- Get out of your comfort zone.
- Make the most out of every opportunity.
- Become friends with locals.
- Don’t neglect your classes.
Enjoy your time abroad!