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5 Things to Know If You’re Going to Study Abroad

road map with little rubber person figurine with suitcase.

A study abroad experience can be one of the most rewarding and exciting times in a college student’s career. To help bring students that opportunity, SUNY schools have more than 600 study abroad opportunities in all 7 continents and over 50 countries. With this many options it’s no wonder so many of our students choose to study abroad. Whether you find an opportunity in Europe, Asia, South America or elsewhere, you can find a way to acquire the “global awareness” that is so vital to business and government in our 21st century global economy. There is no substitute for the real world experiences that you can gain through traveling, adapting to new cultures and opportunities, and making new friends.

So if you’re planning to study abroad, or just started your study abroad experience, here are some important things to know.

  1. Passports and Visas take time

If you have applied and been accepted to your dream school then you need to immediately get to work. You will need a passport and probably a student Visa too. These things can get delayed by bureaucracy, so the sooner you do them, the better.

  1. Just because you can speak English doesn’t mean you should

Of course, this only applies to students traveling to non-English speaking countries. If you are going to try and learn a new language, you should try to speak it as often as you can. A lot of people will speak English, but try not to give in to temptation. You’ll learn a lot. And if you aren’t trying to learn the language, learning a few phrases such as “please” “thank you” and “bathroom” in the new tongue is a good idea. Native speakers will appreciate your effort.

  1. Cultures vary but people are the same everywhere

Everywhere in the world people are falling in love, getting in fights, and crying at the end of Marly and Me (okay, that last one might just be me). Just as there are nice people and mean people in the United States, there are nice people and mean people abroad. But in the US and abroad the good outweighs the bad. Cultural traditions will change but it is important that you be kind and compassionate. And never judge the whole of a group on an individual.

  1. The best program for you will not always be the best program for someone else

It is a great idea to listen to the input of other students who have done study abroad and draw from their experiences. However, ultimately only you can know what is best for you. Think about what and where you want to study. And not just which country! Although both programs are in Japan, maybe Kansai Gaidai is right for you and Tokyo University of Foreign Studies is right for someone else. Different cities and programs can offer vastly different experiences. Do your research, find the right country and program for you.

  1. Open-mindedness is essential

Don’t be too set in your own ways. Try new things. Eat new foods and visit new places. Spend your first day getting lost and trying to find your way back. And have fun! The whole point of study abroad is to globalize, open your mind, and broaden your horizons. The world has a lot to teach you, if you let it.

Written by Kay Broughton

Kay is a student assistant with the SUNY Office of New Media. She is a University at Albany undergraduate working towards a double major in English and East Asian studies with a double minor in communications and film.

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