14 Tips to Make the Most of Your Study Abroad Experience
Since studying abroad at Bogazici University for almost four months in Istanbul, I’ve learned a few life lessons about living in another country. Here are some tips that I’d like to share from my personal experience:
1. Try the food, no matter how gross, unhealthy or weird they may be because it could end being delicious or at least a distasteful experience that you will always remember.
2. Make some friends because it’s nice to have friends who you can travel with, eat meals, explore the new city and share your experiences with. You will go through periods of time when you will need a shoulder to cry on, some advice about certain issues or just someone to have fun with.
3. Do things outside of your comfort zone. You only grow stronger, plus, trying new things can be an eye-opening and fun experience. You only live once.
4. Do what you want. Sometimes people like to follow the crowd, but sometimes it is good to just to do your own thing. Later on, you’ll say to yourself, “I’m so glad that I did that.” It’s also a great way to learn more about yourself.
5. Learn the language. Learning some basics of your new country’s language can reward you with some benefits. You can get a better deal when you are bargaining for an item, especially, for example, at the Grand Bazaar. The locals will also be impressed and appreciative of your efforts. This can lead to interesting conversations, meeting new friends or discovering new things. Also, in my opinion, you are less likely to be ripped off, and it shows that you are interested in the locals’ culture. In Istanbul, knowing some basic Turkish has really come in handy.
6. Explore. Some of the best places that I have stumbled upon were during my explorations. Go down winding streets and find new neighborhoods.
7. Use technology. While studying abroad, technology will be one of your best friends. Smartphones are handy when you are lost because they allow you to figure out where you are on the map and contact the people that you are meeting up with. Many people communicate by Facebook and texting today so it is important to be up-to-date as plans change very quickly. Also if you need to translate a word when you are shopping, read a restaurant menu or understand a street sign, your smartphone is necessary. Using Skype is very useful when you call home as it is free, as it using whatsapp, the free, international text messaging service.
8. Research what types of stuff you should bring with you to study abroad–including clothes, items that are cheaper to buy in your home country, or items that are hard to find in your study abroad destination. In many Muslim countries it is almost impossible to find tampons, and electronics are expensive to purchase. Also make sure that you bring adapters and converters for your electronics.
9. Research about the country’s culture and politics before you come. Knowing the religion, the language and the cuisine will be helpful in order to prepare yourself for your time abroad. If you are living in a Muslim country, make sure to pack modest clothes, although Turkish people dress in all different styles. Also know which topics are unacceptable to speak about in public, such as sex, politics, and religion. Certain body movements can mean different meanings in each culture. In Turkey, smiling at strangers is seen as sexual though in the United States it is seen as being friendly. Knowing about the
country’s politics and religion makes you look knowledgeable about the country. Do not come with preconceptions. They will change very quickly.
10. Be open minded. Since living here, I’ve realized that Turkey is not good nor bad; it is different than what I am used to.
11. Enjoy your time, keep yourself busy and take part in the local culture because it is usually the best way to experience the country.
12. Ask questions; it is the best way to understand a country.
13. Have fun and be yourself.
14. Make every minute count.