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Getting An Education Abroad

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Jul 1, 2013 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Each year approximately one percent of students who are attending college journey beyond U.S. borders to study abroad. Studying abroad offers students attending college or universities the unique opportunity to experience a culture that is different from their own. Students may choose one of many different programs which will affect the time spent abroad and the experience overall. Time spent abroad can last for one summer or as long as an academic year. Most often people who do choose to study abroad choose to do so in the UK, Spain, Australia, or Europe; however, there are opportunities in countries across the globe. People who choose outside of these more common countries will often do so for the pursuit of greater diversity and a more unique experience in a country that is less similar to their own. Regardless of where a student goes to study abroad he or she is benefiting from a level of education and experience that can prove beneficial to his or her future.

When a student makes the decision to travel abroad and experience a portion of his or her education in another country, he or she will need to be properly prepared for the experience. Preparation takes form in several ways. The student must pack and perform pre-departure tasks, such as completing all necessary paperwork for the college and applying for a passport or visa. The student will also need to check that he or she has all the necessary vaccinations needed to enter the country. One way to find this out is to visit the Center for Disease Control website. Other ways that students should prepare is by verifying the limit of his or her ATM card when used overseas, notify credit card companies of the intent to travel abroad and purchase adapters for electronics to ensure that they are compatible. When packing it is important not to over pack and to know what is prohibited by the TSA. Another important way in which students must prepare for their time abroad is to learn as much as possible about the country that is being traveled to. Because countries typically have customs that are different from the U.S., a student who takes the time to learn local customs can avoid unnecessary conflicts and confusion. This will help ensure that the student has a smoother and safer time while traveling. It is also important that the student familiarize his or herself with local means of transportation. Most universities advise students against driving in foreign countries as they will need to obtain additional insurance and a special permit for international driving. Students are also most likely unfamiliar with driving habits and laws in other countries which will differ from those at home. Local means of transportation often include taxis, buses and trains. For the sake of safety, students do not want to stand out as Americans or foreigners.

Once a student has arrived at his or her destination, there will likely be a certain level of culture shock. To adjust students who have previously traveled abroad recommend journaling one's experiences to alleviate anxiety and homesickness and to have a sense of being connected to loved ones at home. Staying busy and interacting with others can also help. Meeting the locals and exploring the environment will also help the student adjust to his or her surroundings. In addition to culture shock, many students may find themselves susceptible to illness. Illness can be caused by poor sanitation, insects, and even the climate. To help reduce the chances of becoming ill it is important to take certain precautions. Food items should be fully cooked and hot before being eaten. In certain countries, particularly countries that are considered developing countries, only water and beverages from sealed bottles or cans should be consumed. Water from the tap, unpasteurized dairy items and food that is uncooked such as fresh fruits and vegetables, should also be avoided. Insect repellent is critical in some parts of the world to prevent insect bites that carry diseases, such as malaria. It is also important for the student to get into the habit of washing his or her hands with soap and water before consuming any food items.

Traveling abroad is an educational experience that can help students strengthen their grasp of a foreign language or assist them in learning a new one. Making new friends and learning customs from countries outside of the U.S. can serve students in terms of future employment and understanding about cultures that have previously been foreign to them. During one's time abroad, however, it is important to practice safety measures. This is best accomplished by understanding what should or should not be said, worn, or otherwise done while in any given country. When approached correctly, students gain an experience that will, at a minimum, create memories for life.

For more information about studying abroad please read the following links.




Jennifer Williamson

Jennifer worked as a GED teacher for an adult education nonprofit for two years. Her students came from all walks of life, and ranged in age from sixteen to sixty-eight. During that time, she became knowledgeable about the unique needs of non-traditional and adult learners. She counseled hundreds of students about their higher education options, including online degree programs.

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