There are innumerable tips that I could give someone who is looking to study abroad but, for the purpose of this blog post, I decided to limit it to what I felt were the two most important to me and what truly helped to define my entire abroad experience.
Figure out what experience you are looking for…
Everybody comes out of their time abroad with very different experiences and, although you can not even come close to predicting what will occur while you are away, there are some things you can do to influence this. Coming into your abroad site, figure out what kind of abroad experience you are looking for. Do you want to go to university in a foreign city or do you want to experience all that Europe has to offer? This is my third semester abroad and completely different than my first two. As a freshman in London, I made the decision that I wanted to fully immerse myself in that city. I took advantage of all the conjunctions that NYU supplied me with – the main thing I did was join a sports team at the University of Central London. I had practice four days a week including Sundays which prevented me from traveling every weekend. I didn’t feel as though I was missing out though because that wasn’t the experience that I was looking for going into my abroad experience. I travelled over Fall and Spring breaks and took one weekend trip – the way a normal student would experience breaks while at university. By the time my year in London was over I had made the city my home. I got to know many locals and all different neighborhoods and became a so-called expert in living in the city. In Florence, I took a very different approach. As a Junior, I was at a time in my life where I just needed a bit of a break and wanted to take full exploration advantage of living in Europe again. From day 1, I knew I wanted to travel every weekend that I could and take advantage of my central geographical location. I took the opportunity to cross many things off my bucket-list and made a tremendous number and variety of memories because this is as close to a four month vacation as I am ever likely to get in my life.
Going abroad doesn’t have to interfere with your academic plans
There is a common misconception that when you go abroad your classes don’t matter. People talk about their classes being a joke – but you will soon learn that that is not exactly the case. Many people decide that while they are abroad they do not want to focus on their studies. They want to travel every weekend and go out every night and let their academics fall to the back burner. It is easy to do this, if it is the kind of experience you want – which brings us back to point number one. There are definitely classes that are easier than others and you always have the option to take a course pass-fail as well as only taking 12 credits instead of the normal 16. For me, this is not the kind of student I am nor the experience that I was looking for. I applied to go abroad for a specific program where all of the courses actually applied straight back to my major. This eliminated my ability to take a course pass-fail or to feel as though I could slack off. Instead, I actually decided to take 18 credits and had one of the toughest academic semesters of my college career. But to be fair, it truly added to my overall experience. Mark Twain once said, “Don’t let schooling get in the way of your education”. I didn’t let my academic needs stop me from from traveling every weekend, from going out with my friends, or from getting to know Florence. I simply rearranged my schedule as to get everything in – If you know everything that you want to get out of a semester abroad, don’t be afraid to go for it!