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12 Rookie Mistakes To Avoid While Studying Abroad

Is it possible to study in your dream foreign country and have regrets? YES.

Do you want to be one of those students who have regrets after studying abroad? NO.

Don’t make the mistake of…

  1. Procrastinating

Procrastinating is really easy to do when you’re submerged in a foreign culture with new friends and given the opportunity to explore. Who wants to be stuck inside writing a 15-page essay? But your time abroad will be so much less stressful if you work ahead. That way you can enjoy your time exploring, instead of staying up late and trying to get everything done last minute!

  1. Not getting help when it’s needed

Whether you’re in class and don’t understand something, or traveling and don’t understand how to get somewhere, humble yourself and take the time to ASK. It saves you so much time and is less stressful if you reach out to whoever is around to help. And you never know—if you ask for help, you may also learn something totally unrelated that’s super cool and leads to a great story that you wouldn’t have if you hadn’t asked in the first place!

  1. Not finding ways to learn outside the classroom

Studying abroad is your opportunity to get out and learn in the real world—and studying abroad will have you realizing what a huge world it is! Visit art and history museums and actually read the informative plaques, participate in cultural customs, put your phone away and build your navigation skills using a printed map, buy a newspaper and read about the place in which you’re studying. Those nuggets of knowledge and experience can be more impactful than the average textbook facts.

  1. Being disorganized

If you’re disorganized, it can oftentimes lead to messy situations that could’ve been avoided if you had just put something back where it should have been or kept things together so you wouldn’t lose them. This can go for school and travel documents, but not keeping a schedule can also make your life disorganized.

  1. Not setting goals

Before I left to study abroad in Ireland for one semester, I set personal and academic goals for myself. Academic goals were pretty basic: Getting good grades, keeping up with my homework, and studying well for tests. But setting personal goals resulted in satisfaction, because I was growing myself. One of my goals was traveling independently to another country outside my foreign university’s country, and I ended up visiting Scotland for three days and managed the whole trip by myself. I’ve never been more proud of myself. If you don’t set goals, it’s easy to go through your time abroad without doing anything that increases your self-confidence and sense of accomplishment, something you will regret when you’re older.

  1. Not documenting your time abroad

The brain is not the best record-keeper, we all know that. So save the little ticket stubs, the extra foreign coins, the postcards, the random little things you collect along the way, and write down everything you’re feeling and experiencing. You’ll regret it if you can’t look back and remember the details to tell other people.

  1. Not communicating with people from back home

If you don’t make phone or Skype calls back home while you’re studying abroad, it is likely that you’ll come home and regret how much you have missed in your loved one’s lives. Take what time you can to phone home and ask how everyone’s doing, tell them what’s up with your studies and travels. It can also help lessen the culture shock that occurs when you go back home.

  1. Not hanging out with people of different nationalities

In the beginning of my study abroad experience as an American, I often stuck with Americans because I was comfortable around them. But once I got to know my European housemates and began hanging out with them and their friends, I was able to learn things about foreign countries if I hadn’t spent time with them. You’re studying abroad for a reason, which is to learn about your world mostly

  1. Not seeking solid ways to build your resume

Studying abroad can land you unimaginable opportunities, but ONLY if you prove that you’ve done work while abroad! Go job shadow, get published, work with a professor on research outside of class, volunteer in the community, do whatever is within your reach to add something unique to your resume so you can really impress after you graduate!

  1. Not networking

If studying abroad is something you’re doing to help increase your chances of getting a job worldwide, then try networking with professors, local companies, or publications. You never know who could help land you that career you’ve been dreaming of.

  1. Not making a budget

Spending your money unwisely can make for an experience that you regret for quite awhile. Don’t get so set back financially that you can’t live well when you come home. Spend less on alcohol and more on food that’s fulfilling. Spend less on frivolous shopping and more on worthwhile souvenirs for loved ones back home. Making a budget can help you afford the things that really matter.

  1. Not trying new foods

There’s no better way to try authentic foreign foods than in the country from which they originated, so step outside your comfort zone and try that dish that has funny-looking meat—it probably tastes better than it looks.

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Rachel Helgeson


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