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5 Things Students Should Know About Studying Abroad

If you’ve got an adventurous spirit and a desire to see the world, there may be no better experience in your entire life than studying abroad during college. Whether for a single semester or an entire year, you’ll leave your friends and campus behind to head across the ocean, seeing life as the locals do at a foreign college. You’ll have the chance to brush up on your language skills while being exposed to food, music and culture you might never have seen before. It’s an amazing opportunity, and you’ll make tons of new friends that you might keep with you for the rest of your life. But any decision this large shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. It is a life-changing situation, which always brings an unusual mix of good and bad. Here are five things students should know about studying abroad.

First of all, it might take you a while to get into a comfort zone. This is especially true if you don’t have much experience outside of the United States. You’ll suddenly be surrounded by an entirely different culture, in a place you don’t know at all. That can be pretty alienating if you aren’t up to the challenge. As a result, your studies could suffer. You probably didn’t take on a study abroad opportunity just for the educational aspect, but it is something to keep in mind. Depending on your major you might not have any leeway in the GPA you need to maintain. So prepare yourself for some discomfort in advance, so you won’t be thrown by it.

Also keep in mind that the language barrier could be quite isolating. This won’t be a problem if you study abroad in a country where English is widely used, or if you’re quite outgoing in social situations. But consider what it will feel like to be in a place where you don’t know anyone, surrounded by people speaking a language you don’t understand. It’s the same experience that millions of immigrants step into when they come to the U.S. If you have little to no experience in the language it will impact your ability to make friends and keep up with classes. So try to gain at least a baseline understanding of the language before you head over. Otherwise you could be in for some lonely times.

You should also keep in mind that your financial aid package might not transfer overseas. Most college loans students receive only cover schools here in the United States. Once you leave the country, you’ll be on your own. That means you’ll have to make sure you have enough money budgeted to get you through that semester without those loans. Scholarships might still apply, however, so make sure you check in with the financial aid department before accepting any study abroad opportunity.

One interesting perk of studying abroad is that it might put you in line for dual citizenship. This is only going to work in certain countries, where the requirements are less stringent. But if you’re going to spend an entire year inside the same country, and if you like it so much you can see yourself going back, it might be worth applying. You’ll enjoy certain financial benefits, and your resume will stand out from the pack if you apply to corporations with international offices.

Finally, don’t forget about the complexities of the time change. This isn’t something you’ll really notice until you’re there. It won’t be that big of a deal if you’re going after a criminal justice online degree, but if you’re going to classes all day and then try to get in touch with family and friends back home at night, you might find the time change tricky. This will certainly be the case the farther you get from home, and if you go to school in Asia or Australia the time difference is significant.

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