After reflecting on my own experiences, I have come up with 10 ways for you to maximise your overseas study experience. To be fair, there is no limit to how much you can maximise your experience; as Lindsay Lohan once said in Mean Girls; The Limit Does Not Exist. I agree wholeheartedly with Lindsay, there is no limit to how amazing you can make any experience – in particular; studying overseas. However, I am going to give you 10 tips on how to make your overseas study an amazing and unforgettable adventure!
1: Always go with spur of the moment plans!
This is definitely my biggest tip. It’s not every day that you are on the other side of the world and have these opportunities, so I say just go for it! When people make plans, you should push some of your doubts aside and say yes. It is these last-minute experiences that end up being some of the most memorable.
When I did my semester exchange in Canada, there were spur of the moment weekend trips to the mountains and I bought spur of the moment tickets to concerts; such as The Weeknd & Jay-Z. There were last-minute plans to go to sporting games, and heaps of cool events the University held; such as fireworks, petting zoos and bringing in dogs to relieve exam stress (this is just naming a few!) Also, every Wednesday turned out to be Wing Wednesday and I never missed this, as it ended up being the best time to socialise with new friends and get to know them better over dinner.
2: Plan trips away
My next piece of advice would be to try and plan as many trips away as you can. On a similar note to above, you are on the other side of the world – why not try and see as much as possible?! These trips can be before or after you start your study or even throughout. It gives you a chance to open your eyes to other parts of the world and you come away with more amazing memories.
When I went on my semester exchange, I travelled around a lot, which was an amazing highlight for me. Before studying, I went to Toronto and Vancouver. During, I went to Mexico, Calgary and the Rocky Mountains and after I travelled to Ottawa, Quebec City, Montreal, Ontario, New York, Washington D.C. Las Vegas and Los Angeles!
3: Keep track of your experience by taking pictures and videos and keeping a journal
I can promise you that you will want to remember your experience forever and what better way than having photos, videos and a journal to look back on. Wherever you go, take lots of photos! Please, also remember to take time without your phone to simply enjoy the moments as well.
My experiences overseas have been some of the best moments of my life and I absolutely love the fact that I have hundreds of photos and videos to look back on and re-live the amazing experiences I had.
4: Try new things! Everyone is in the same boat
You’ve already taken a giant leap by deciding to study abroad so why not try other new things while you’re at it. When I was in Canada, I decided to join the Outdoors Club which is not something I would have chosen back home, and it turned out to be so much fun – we went hiking, saw the northern lights and got to visit hot springs.
As corny as it sounds, you only have one life, so why not take a chance and try something new. You will never know if you enjoy something unless you try it first! Trying new things is a great way to discover new interests and hobbies and make friends along the way. One thing I would suggest you do is see what the university you are studying at has to offer. Every university has lots of different clubs to join and activities to do!
5. Keep in contact with family and friends
Leaving your regular life behind while you go on an overseas adventure can honestly be difficult at times. There may be moments when you do feel homesick and miss your family and friends.
Trust me when I say that it does help keeping in contact with people from back home. The first time I went overseas, I decided I wouldn’t talk to my family because I would then miss them too much if I called them. As it turned out, not talking to them made me feel even more homesick! So, the next time I went away, I made sure I kept in contact with them. Try speaking to friends and family once a week. You can tell them all about your adventures and get caught up with what’s happening back home.
6. Experience the culture!
We are so lucky to live in a world with so many different cultures. When you study overseas make sure you really immerse yourself in the local culture because there will be so many unique opportunities. For example, when I did a short-term overseas university tour we went to Sweden and I got the chance to visit the ABBA museum and eat traditional Swedish food. When I went on exchange to Canada, I made sure to eat poutine and go to ice hockey games and I now know that ice hockey is my favourite sport to watch!
Before you go on your overseas study adventure, make sure you google things that you MUST try in that destination. Find things that are unique to the destination so you can really experience the culture.
7. Leave room in your suitcase…
For SHOPPING and other items, you will have collected. Honestly, I wish I didn’t pack as much as I did because I ended up buying a lot. The city I went to for my exchange had the largest shopping mall in North America and I was also there when black Friday sales hit. As you can imagine, this, plus the fact that I got heaps of free stuff from my university, bought university merchandise and had to buy more clothes to keep myself warm, I definitely did not have enough room in my suitcase. I would suggest not packing as much as you think you should because you will want to buy stuff while you are away, and it can be a hassle trying to figure out how to bring it all back home with you!
This is a simple one – go out and make friends. When you are studying overseas it is easy to make friends because everyone is in a similar position. You will get the chance to meet people from all over the world and the experiences you share together will bring you closer. My advice is to not be afraid to approach people when studying abroad because people will want to hear about you and where you are from. I guarantee if you make the effort to make friends, you will have them for life. The best part about this is that now you will have friends from all over the world and you can go visit them!
9. Foster a positive attitude
Studying overseas is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You should be so proud of how far you have come and for making the decision to go and study for a period of time in a totally new country! Remember that this experience won’t last forever so you should make the most of it while you have it. There may be hard moments, but everyone has those moments, just remember how far you have come and take the time to be thankful for the experience.
Fostering a positive attitude and focusing on how much this experience will influence your life will make the experience even better! Studying overseas was hands down the best thing I have done, and I am so grateful for the experience and memories. If you are reading this article and are not sure about taking the leap, I suggest you go for it. It will be one of the best things you could ever do!
10. Be prepared
This one is pretty simple, just come prepared and also go into situations prepared. Make sure you print all the documents you need, that you have enough money, that you have packed what needs to be packed and that you keep your passport safe at all times… honestly, this list could go on forever. It never hurts to be prepared and organised because it makes everything easier and there is less of a chance for something to go wrong.
One example of how being prepared payed off for me was when I recently went to London. Before I left for London, I bought a cheap handbag and cheap wallet and when I went out, I only bought the necessities for the day. I left all my other valuables in the hotel in case I lost my bag, or it got stolen. Of course, I did happen to have my bag stolen but I was lucky because I came prepared and I didn’t lose a lot of valuables. Unlucky for the person who stole my bag, because she didn’t get a lot!
I hope this list has inspired you to make the most of your overseas study experience. Please leave a comment if you have any other tips on how to get the most out of studying overseas. If you are someone considering going overseas to study, you should definitely do it and keep this list in mind, so you too can have the most amazing time!
My name is Shannon and I am one of the Marketing Coordinators at AIM Overseas. I had the opportunity to study overseas twice when I was at university, so I love working in an organisation where we give students the same opportunity! I am someone who loves to hang out with my family and friends all the time, I enjoy staying active and I love to travel. You will always see me making a fool of myself or laughing at something silly I just said.