Suggestions for getting the most out of your high school study abroad trip.
So you’re going to study abroad. You’re probably feeling a lot of excitement—as well as a healthy dose of nerves. That’s okay! Having the opportunity to study abroad in high school can be life-changing, and the experience will create lasting memories. The key is to prepare as much as possible ahead of time in order to make the most of your time there.
Do Some Research Ahead of Time
One of the regrets study abroad students sometimes note is a lack of research and preparation before departure. Your study abroad experience is an investment in your education as well as your future. As the weeks draw closer to departure, think about preparing your mind, as well as your suitcase. Read your Academy student handbook. Check out some books at the library or do some reading online. A few hours spent researching the history and culture of your study abroad location will pay off. The more you prepare ahead of time, the better adjusted you will be when you arrive and the more you will learn about the culture and yourself.
Honor the Language Pledge
Immersion means that you spend all your waking hours “in language.” At the beginning of the program, you will be asked to sign the Language Pledge®, promising to only speak in your target language for the duration of the Academy. The Pledge is a serious responsibility and while we understand the challenges of remaining in language, we hold our students to this standard at all times.
One of the advantages of studying abroad, is that language immersion is inherent in the experience. There is no better way to improve your language skills than to interact with native speakers. Seek out as many opportunities as you can to chat with the locals—while you're out shopping or grabbing something to eat. You‘ll be amazed at how these small interactions can enrichen your experience and dramatically improve your conversation skills in a short amount of time.
Keep an Open Mind
Prepare yourself for the fact that things are going to be different in another country. Some things in your daily life are going to be “better” than at home and some things are going to be “worse.” You will miss some things that you like, such as certain foods or your favorite hangouts—and you may even experience bouts of homesickness from time to time—but you will also come to like new things abroad that you can’t find at home. Consider that you only have a few weeks abroad to make the most of your language learning and cultural exploration, so try to make the most of your time there.
Be an Ambassador, Not a Tourist
Keep in mind that you are the guest, so it is up to you to conform to the customs and living habits of your host country. Remember also that you are representing your own country through your actions and demeanor. You may have to modify your expectations about lifestyles, habits and customs of the local people. You will certainly encounter language frustrations and you will go through an adjustment period. This is part of growth and becoming open-minded as a result.