Maximizing the Study Abroad Experience

Journaling

Even if you have never kept a journal before, you might wish to document your experiences abroad, whether in written, photographic, or video format. You might find it useful to carry a small notebook with you so that you can jot down interesting discoveries, new words you encounter, and general reflections as you go about your daily life abroad. Not only can journaling help you process the transformative nature of study abroad, but is is also a great way to record the details of this important time in your life. These details will, no doubt, be of interest to you later in life as you look back on the experience, but it will also enable you to recall the unique rewards and challenges you encountered while abroad. These experiences can be useful to highlight when you are interviewing for graduate school or work, research, or internships, as you may be asked to provide specific examples of how you applied your problem-solving, coping, and communication skills to deal with a challenging situation.

Getting Involved and Meeting People

Some students find it difficult to fit in socially, while they are abroad. In some cases, local students may be aware that you are only there for a semester or two and may not make much effort to get to know you, so it may fall to you to make the first move. Many alumni have said that they learned how to put themselves out there socially while abroad, and it paid off, even if it might have been uncomfortable at first. You will find that most people will be receptive if you approach to ask a question about a class or a recommendation for something fun to do. Study abroad is all about getting outside your comfort zone.

You may find it easier to meet local people if you get involved in some sort of extracurricular activity, whether it is something you have been doing at Tufts or something new that might be unique to the host culture. Engaging in a shared interest is a low-pressure way to get to know people and can lead to a variety of interesting social and cultural opportunities. You may also be able to do some volunteer work while abroad. This can be a great way to expand your social circle beyond the student population and get a broader view of your host community.

Communication With Home

We are fortunate to live in a time when contact with friends and family back home is incredibly easy and immediate, through social media and electronic or video messaging. While it is important to maintain a certain level of contact, you may find yourself spending a great deal of time communicating back home, especially during the challenging or lonely times that can sometimes arise while abroad. In order to get the most out of your experience abroad, it is wise to find a balance that enables you to connect back home on occasion yet also dedicate yourself to exploring and getting to know your host culture and the community. You will also find that your social media posts will be more interesting if you are out doing things worth posting about!