Studying abroad is probably the pinnacle of any college experience. But what many take for granted is just how shocking it can be to be thrown headfirst into a brand new culture. Their customs, traditions, foods and even language can all be roadblocks that impact anyone's time abroad.
But, there are measures that you can take to ensure that you aren't spending your precious time overseas struggling to adapt.
1. The first and most important thing to remember is that your culture isn't necessarily "right" in every aspect.
Just because your host country is different doesn't mean it's "wrong." In fact, no country can be right or wrong. So don't let yourself begin your experience by judging every difference because you'll quickly exhaust yourself and start your trip on the wrong foot. Instead, take in every change for what it is: a symptom of the adventure you bravely undertook.
2. If you take your trip as a tourist, you'll only see your study abroad through the rose-colored glasses of America.
Every country with a market in tourism "Disney-fies" the country to be more appealing to its visitors. But when we stick to what we know, or even the neighbor of familiarity, we'll stick to the tendency to compare their culture to ours. By focusing on the travel agent's top 10 sites and visiting only to spend hours fighting selfie sticks and street vendors selling the same plastic trinkets at every block, you'll truly miss out on some of the authenticity that makes your extended travels so important.
What's more, by seeing everything as American-adjacent, you'll find yourself missing your home country even more. It's those "close but no cigar" moments that will make it harder to be away from what you know. So, by all means, take in the tourist sites, but don't forget to explore more of the underground or native go-to hangouts. When you stop searching for what you know, you can take in the world around you.
3. Live in the moment.
I'm guilty of this too. Many times, I'm caught up in trying to take the perfect Instagram picture that I don't really look at the world around me. I want to show off where I am without exactly knowing where I am. Be sure to get your pictures (those will be memories you will keep forever), but also take a time to put the cameras away and live!
4. Find your routine.
Even on a vacation of sorts, it's good to find a sense of normalcy so that it doesn't get too overwhelming. Whether you're taking classes, interning, both or neither, it's important to find some daily comfort. Maybe it's a coffee shop down the block, maybe it's your morning commute and the playlist you listen to on the way, maybe it's a unique store that you like to shop at. Whatever it is, make your own home away from home. Once you have your home base, you'll then be able to venture further out of your comfort zone and experience the world around you.
5. Most important of all, enjoy yourself!
Remember every detail! Take advantage of every opportunity! Have fun! These will be the stories you'll tell your family, friends, kids and grandkids years from now! So make it count!