From Classroom to Community: How International Students Can Make the Most of Their Study Abroad Experience

Your experience will be different from what you anticipated before leaving home. It won't necessarily be horrible, but it will be unique. Even when you study abroad, there are certain mundane ordinary days, and at first, you could feel a little lonely. However, you will meet a lot of new individuals once your classes begin. Most students find that the longer they study abroad, the more they like it.

1 - Make Local Connections

Making relationships with the locals was difficult, but many students tell us when they go back to Penn State that it was the most rewarding part of their study abroad experience.  Please remember that socialization patterns vary among countries, and how one goes about creating and maintaining friendships can differ greatly from back home. To meet local college students and community residents, think about volunteering while you're overseas or joining clubs or student organizations in your community.

2 - Write

Documenting your trips by writing on blogs, personal websites, and other social networking sites is a fanciful idea. Some students discover that they read their journals again in the months and years following their return.  Writing can encourage more in-depth reflection and comprehension of students' individual effects from their overseas experiences.  Think about writing a piece on your experience and entering it in the Penn State Education Abroad Writing Contest.

3 - Travel (But Not Every Weekend)

Explore the region, take in the sights, and give new things a try! But keep in mind the reasons for your decision to attend the school where you did. Get to know the locals in your new neighborhood. How are their lives organized?  What issues do they have?  What brings them joy?  Try to engage in conversation with people you might not typically encounter, such as senior folks, nonprofit organizations, or other residents who aren't necessarily involved in your educational programme.  You will have a context in which to think about what you learn at school if you have a deeper awareness of your neighborhood!

4 - Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

The term "One Hundred-legged American" is frequently used to describe American students studying overseas because they sometimes move in groups that appear to be one body with many legs.  It is difficult to leave the safety of the group, but spending time with people who are not American study abroad students enable you to develop deeper connections with the host community and broadens your awareness of regional customs and intercultural exchange.

5 - Live Like a Local Student

The greatest approach to saving costs is undoubtedly to shop, eat, and socialize with local students. As an added benefit, you will discover activities and sights that you might not have learned about from a guidebook.

6 - Show Appreciation Across Cultures

In the United States, we typically show our gratitude by tipping at restaurants, sending thank-you notes, or simply saying sweet things. In a different culture, expressing gratitude might call for a novel strategy. Giving gifts, for instance, is significant in several cultures. How do people express their gratitude when they are studying? You can show your thanks by speaking politely, adhering to cultural norms and expectations, and following established procedures.

7 - Get your family involved, but don't rely on them

By the time you get to your host country, you'll have overcome a lot of challenges, such as sifting through mountains of paperwork before you go, keeping up your grades, and packing the necessities for success overseas.  We suggest that you treat your family members as mentors, consultants, or advisors rather than as your helpers, secretaries, or problem-solvers.  You develop abilities in international communication, problem-solving, navigation, and much more by giving yourself the tools to handle the opportunities and challenges of day-to-day life abroad.  Accept these chances for development!

8 - Culture Shock Adjustments

Unquestionably, altering to a new culture encompasses emotional ups and downs. By overcoming daily obstacles when traveling, you are transitioning from a tourist to someone who is more deeply engaged with the local culture. This is a moment for you to reflect on your principles, presumptions, and beliefs and discover how your fresh experiences are challenging them, as challenging as that may be. Remember that individual differences in culture (and perceptions of similarity) as well as other contextual factors play a big role in adapting.

9 - Study the Culture

You can have fun while traveling, studying the language, and engaging in extracurricular activities, to name just a few options. But keep in mind that taking academic classes is a fantastic way to learn more about the culture of your host country. Become an expert in a particular aspect of the culture! Don't settle for writing a report on the local politics of the area in which you're studying without, for instance, interviewing a politician there. Don't pass up the chance to study with local students by enrolling directly in a local university if you have the chance.

10 - Develop a New Perspective

Frequently, no one ever informs you of the most crucial information you need to know about a culture. However, with time, experience, and close observation, you'll start to learn about the cultural information that people use to structure their behavior. What beliefs, dispositions, and presuppositions underlie that behavior? By putting aside your preconceived ideas of how the world is or should be, try to understand the worldviews of people in the host culture.


A great way to travel and grow as a person is through studying abroad. Make the most of your time abroad and don't forget to have fun because you'll probably remember it fondly in the future!

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