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An increasingly popular option for students around the world, particularly in Europe and the United States, is to study or work abroad for six months to a year in a different country. Of course, the advantages of doing so are innumerable?you’ll learn a new language or practice one you’ve studied only in a classroom, you’ll meet new people from all over the world, and you’ll experience a completely different culture. That being said, the value of your time spent abroad is directly related to how you structure your experience. Here are a few tips for making the most of your stay.

[Note from Stefan: If you are going to Study Abroad, make sure to check out this awesome guide on How To Study Abroad: ‘The Ultimate Study Abroad guide‘!]

1. Don’t drink too much.

For many students who go overseas, the temptation to party is practically ingrained in the entire “study abroad” culture. While of course, you do want to have fun, taking it to extremes will make you miss out on many opportunities that living in a new place affords.

2. Choose a homestay option over dormitory living.

If your study abroad program gives you the option of living with a family instead of sharing a dorm room or apartment with other exchange students, consider the advantages of staying with a family. Not only will you get to practice your language skills in an immersive environment daily, but you’ll also have a taste of what it’s like to live as actual denizens of the city or town in which you are studying do.

3. Make local friends.

In the same way that home stay accommodation encourages a more authentic exchange experience, so too does actively making local friends. Many study abroad programs become somewhat insular with their groups, effectively creating an “expat” clique. Branch out and make finding local friends a priority. If anything, you’ll be steered away from expensive expat bars, restaurants, and other entertainment venues.

4. In addition to studying, check out volunteer or internship options.

As any student has enrolled in an exchange program before knows, the vast majority of courses are not very difficult or particularly time consuming. So you’ll more than likely have tons of free time on your hands. Visa restrictions will probably not allow you to get a real part-time job, but think about scoping out volunteer or intern options. Participating in one of the two will enhance your international professional experience?something employers everywhere are interested in?and it will also give you the opportunity to be more involved in a new community.

5. Take advantage of visiting cultural institutions.

Whether or not you are the museum type, do avail yourself of the opportunity to experience another country or city’s cultural institutions. Whether it’s going to see the opera, the theater, an art gallery, or a local park, find something you enjoy and go check it out. While your stay will be longer than a typical tourist’s, you won’t be living in your host country forever, so it’s enriching to explore whatever culture the country has to offer.
These are just a few ways to enhance your time spent abroad. Above all, remember to enjoy every minute of your stay, because it could very well be the last time you actually reside in such a different place. For students who have already had exchange experience, what was your favorite part? What additional advice would you offer students who have yet to study overseas?

Katheryn Rivas is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online universities. Questions and comments can be sent to: katherynrivas87@gmail.com.

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