A few weeks ago, I posted about general learning experiences I had all within one week of being on campus. Since then, I’ve been inspired to think about what I’ve learned while abroad, either through my own experiences or that of someone in my groups.
1. Always have the address of the place you’re staying.
Let’s say, hypothetically, you find yourself out and about but separated from your group without a phone or an adequate grasp on the local language. In this scenario, it’s always good to at least have a way to get back to home base, being your dormitory or hotel. Memorize it, write it on a card or your hand, but always keep it on your person. This way, you can show it to a taxi driver who can take you back to where you need to be.
2. Be hyperaware of the whereabouts of your phone and wallet.
You think you’re partying and having a good time, and then you get home and realize you don’t have your phone or wallet because you left it tucked in your back pocket or sticking out of your purse. Pickpocketing has definitely happened to ND students while abroad. Don’t leave it in a cab either – this has happened to friends on both of my study abroad trips.
3. Lock your doors.
If your doors don’t automatically lock, then make sure you lock them both when you’re out of the room and overnight. Take precautions against opportunist thieves!
4. Talk to and get to know the local students.
I didn’t do this when I went to Taiwan and regret it. Luckily, I took the chance to make friends when I went to India, and it was a great experience. If you have an opportunity to get to know the local students wherever you’re studying, then don’t pass it up! They can show you some pretty neat things about their city/town that you wouldn’t find on your own as a tourist. It’s also fun to learn about their culture and different perspectives, even if in many ways you are more similar than different. And it doesn’t hurt to come home and be able to keep in touch with friends on the other side of the world!
5. Get off the Wifi and go outside.
You can sit on your computer all you want at home, but I would suggest limiting your time in your hotel/dorm to as little as possible while you're abroad. Whenever I wanted to waste away some time on the internet, I always thought to myself: when's the next time I'm going to be in this place, if ever? And also, remember, you should stay healthy by all means, but you can sleep when you get back! This is the reasoning I used when I was debating whether to nap or go out and do something. I'm happy that I usually chose to do something, because the time flies while studying abroad. Before you know it, you're back home again.
In short, there are a lot of little things I would do differently, but these are the key things I learned while studying abroad. I had a great experience during both of my summers in Asia regardless, but now I'll be better prepared the next time I go abroad!