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When I began to think about applying for a study abroad program, the first step I took was reading all the pamphlets and brochures. While these can be very helpful with the general, practical information, there is so much about a program that just can’t be conveyed until you experience it yourself. Here are a few of the things I have learned so far.

  1. You don’t have to have every second of every day planned out before you get here. In fact, I encourage you to arrive to your program with an open mind and minimal expectations. You will meet so many new friends when you arrive so it is best not to be locked down to a million plans that you can’t change.

  2. It is perfectly okay to sign up for a study abroad program even if you don’t know anyone else going. One of the best things about travel is that it bonds you with your fellow travellers like nothing else. Inside jokes and shared experiences are abundant on trips like this, which makes it incredibly easy to build close friendships.

  3. Even though you will likely be taking challenging courses, you will learn much more outside of the classroom. Independent travel creates an opportunity for growth and responsibility. When you and three friends miss the only train to the airport in a foreign country, you learn a lot about yourself and how to work with others. Experiencing another culture so deeply for such a long time is an incredible way to learn more about the world.

  4. During the first few days you might miss home more than you thought you would. It is one thing to miss your friends and family when you are away for a week, it is a whole other thing to miss familiarity. When I moved to another country for five weeks I did not expect to miss home as soon as I did. It took me a few days but I realized that what I missed most was familiarity. In a new country even reading a street sign or a menu is a difficult task so during the first few days, you may miss the comfort of your home city and that is okay because…

  5. Being out of your comfort zone can be a great experience and you just might have the time of your life. Sometimes being uncomfortable isn’t always fun but it is always worth it. I have grown so much as a person and a traveler in just ten days abroad. The experiences and memories that I have been granted will last me a lifetime.

If you are thinking about applying for a study abroad program, I encourage you to do more than just read about it online. Go find someone who has done the program before and ask him or her about their time. You will gain a much more authentic understanding of what you will be doing and learning during the time abroad.

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