Taking the big step to embark on a study abroad adventure in a new country is an incredible exciting time for a college student. In many ways, studying abroad differs from other international experiences in that it fully allows students the opportunity to acclimate into their new city and society rather than simply act as a tourist for a couple of days.
Integrating into your new environment while abroad is an important aspect of understanding the local culture and way of life. Whether your new home is metropolitan London or quaint and charming St. Andrews, here are a few tips for creating a truly immersed experience during your time abroad with UCEAP:
Integrate in Class: Many of our England, Scotland and Ireland Programmes offer courses in which students are taking classes with local students and are taught by local professors. This offers you an opportunity to become a part of the true University experience and build a network within your host institution. Be aware that the university structure will be different than what you may be used to back at UC and don’t be afraid to ask for clarifications or assistance if needed.
Integrate Outside of Class: Whether it be a hobby or interest from back home or a completely new passion that you want to pursue, taking part in local university clubs and societies is a wonderful way to experience another aspect of your host institution’s university life–and make some local friends!
Integrate in the Local Community and Culture: Given you’ll be living in your host city for an X amount of months, getting involved in some form of community organization or event is another way to experience an exciting aspect of your new home! From volunteer work to attending special cultural events taking place near you, integrating and experiencing what the locals love and do on a regular basis is a great way to feel connected and integrated with the community. You may even find a new favorite dish or tradition to bring back home with you!
Embrace Cultural Sensitivity: Be observant of the differences in cultural values and behaviors and stay open-minded as you meet and interact with new people from across all backgrounds. As an international student, you are likely to meet fellow Americans, other exchange students and the locals, so use this cultural melting pot experience as a way to grow and learn about other cultures, beliefs, traditions and values.
Ask any study abroad returnee, your time abroad goes by in a flash! So, remember to keep an open-mind and fully immerse yourself in all that your new host university, host city, host country and host culture have to offer!