I have one week to go in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Before I find myself completely overwhelmed readjusting to life in the U.S., I thought I would share a few pointers for anyone who thinks studying abroad is in their future.
- Study away. If you can find a way to make it work, do it. Studying away isn’t just for language students; there are programs for students of all majors.
- Start planning now. Planning to study away isn’t just as simple as choosing where you want to go. Consider how it is going to fit in with the rest of your curriculum. What classes do you have to take now? What about when you get back? Will all of your credits transfer? What if they don’t? Aside from any academic planning, you must also consider how you are going to make travel arrangements, keep in touch with family and friends, and manage your finances from another part of the world.
- Go somewhere new. Step outside of the famed “Oberlin bubble,” but also step outside of your comfort zone. Studying away is a unique opportunity to travel and get to know another culture, an opportunity that doesn’t come by very often.
- Immerse yourself. If you study abroad in a large city, chances are there is a sizeable community of other U.S. students and expats, which means it’s entirely possible to spend an entire semester without really integrating yourself with the local community. Yes, it’s hard to step out and socialize with people in a new place, in a new culture, but it’s also worth it. Furthermore, if your goal is to learn a language, practice it. I can’t tell you how many other American students I’ve met in Buenos Aires that haven’t learned a word of Spanish while they’ve been here. (Some actually seem to get worse.)
- Don’t let worldwide financial crises stand in your way. Choose an Oberlin-affiliated program and watch your financial aid travel with you (as Yitka also suggests here). Hell, it may even be cheaper to study abroad than to study at Oberlin!
Those are my humble words of advice for now. There is surely plenty more to be said.
Have you taken a semester or two away to study somewhere new? Take a moment and share your own words of advice below.