Stay Focused: Be A Successful Student Abroad

Before you leave and even while you’re studying abroad, you’re going to have a lot of people congratulate you and comment on your new adventure. Which is fantastic and they totally should! Unfortunately, many people forget that the priority for studying abroad is in the title. Studying! Your classes and grades should always come first, being in a different country shouldn’t change that. Don’t let the change in class format, material, or professors intimidate you. Depending on where you are, every exchange and international student experience is unique. My experience as an international student in Scotland was not focused on language or cultural immersion like many programs, but was still different from what I was used to. All of these tips can apply to your experience as a first-year college student as well. Being a successful student can happen whenever you happen to be in school!


Read Your Syllabus

Kind of a no brainer, but hear me out. When I’m at my home university in the USA, the first class tends to be focused on going over the syllabus and answering any questions you may have about the semester. This did not happen in any of my classes abroad and we jumped right into the material. Read your syllabus to find out when assignments are due and write down the dates (so you can plan traveling and adventures around them). Figure out which textbooks you need and which ones are recommended. Important: save your syllabi! In the common occurrence that your university decides to not accept any class that you took abroad, keeping your syllabi can help you get those classes approved. Having visible proof of what was covered in class can help your university understand which credits to count for that class.

Check Your Home University for Textbooks Online

This is something I didn’t do the first week and was kicking myself for the rest of the semester. As an English Literature major, most of the required materials can be found in libraries. I decided to rely on both my international university and home university’s libraries for materials and not buy any textbooks. Except for one. And wouldn’t you know it, this certain textbook was available for free online from my home university’s library. Check into your home university’s library AND your international university’s library for textbooks and other materials before buying them in the book store. (Also always do this at your home university anyways!)            

Talk to Your Professors

Get to know your new professors and instructors! This is not only beneficial for your understanding of the class, but a great way to get to know someone local in your study abroad country. Professors are (usually, not always) friendly and wanting to help students who ask for it. Make a good impression on your professor by participating in class when needed and talking to them afterwards, either asking questions or talking more about the material. At the end of my semester in Scotland, one of my professors actually offered to write me a letter of recommendation if I ever needed one. However, if you don’t attend classes on a regular basis, they will notice and not in a good way. While you may be itching to travel often, do attend every class you can. Be present and interested, they’ll notice!            

Make Friends with Local and International Students in Class

Again, this is two-fold. Making friends in class can help you understand the material from a different perspective and provide you with new study buddies. Your classes will be filled with people who have the same interests as you, take advantage of that! You’ve already made it past the first hurdle of finding out whether you have anything in common. Also, getting to know people in your classes helps you feel more comfortable in your new environment, connecting you to your new home in the best way: friendship. There you go! A few ways to make sure you stay on top of your priority during studying abroad. What classes are you excited to take during your international experience?

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Kendall Varin

I'm a native Idaho girl who decided to branch out from my roots in the Pacific Northwest. The last autumn semester of my senior year I was very studious (and slightly adventurous) in Scotland. Having lived six places in the last two years, I don't plan to stop there. I'm convinced my life’s purpose is to meet and love as many people from all over the world as I can. Follow my blog as I post about confidently traveling solo, studying literature in a different country, and how little it takes to truly feel at home! For a little Scottish appreciation, make sure to check out my Instagram too!

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