Natalie Hartman ‘23 is a Peer Advisor in the Center for Global Education. She is earning her undergraduate degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Creative and Cultural Industries.
Although I have traveled to numerous countries, with the constraints of COVID-19 I have not yet had the opportunity to study abroad through Chapman. However, to gather some helpful advice on how to make the most out of a study abroad experience I turned to former Peer Advisor and Graduate Assistant to the Travel Course & International Internships Manager at the Center for Global Education, Ryan Ireland. I asked Ryan what he believed the top 10 most important tips were for students that were planning to study abroad. Working together, we came up with 10 helpful tips for new travelers that can help reassure and nerves.
Ryan earned his undergraduate degree in Business Administration – International Business and Finance, with a minor in Chinese. In addition, he is currently an MBA candidate. Ryan studied abroad at City, University of London in the Fall of 2017 as well as attending the Taiwan Travel Course in the summers of 2017 & 2019.
- Consider studying abroad in less traditional locations or at least make an attempt to visit less traditional destinations. Study abroad somewhere that is going to push you outside your comfort zone and make for a memorable experience.
- Take the advice of people who have never been to where you are going with a grain of salt, but adamantly listen to the advice of people who have been to where you are traveling. For example, the Study Abroad Fair or Around the Globe, are great events and resources to talk to study abroad alumni.
- Always research the best food to try or the best restaurants to visit before you visit somewhere new. Looking up food blogs with popular eats or asking locals for the best spots are great ways to find new cuisine.
- It is always better to take too many photos than not enough. Who knows when you will get to have this experience again. Keeping a blog to update family and friends on the trip is a great way to not only keep motivated with memories but to showcase your pictures! You can also share your pictures and experiences on our social media and blog by becoming a CGE Social Media Ambassador! This allows you to share your memories and journey as a student abroad.
- Don’t be too apprehensive about stretching your wallet! While it is important to stick to a budget, you don’t want to get home and regret not doing something because it was just a few dollars more than you wanted to spend. There are also numerous ways to fundraise for your trip! Global Education Advisor, Daniel Garcia, has a helpful blog on Creative Ways of Fundraising to Study Abroad.
- If going on a semester program or an academic year abroad, take advantage of your weekends to travel. However, balancing weekends spent traveling with weekends in your host city is important for creating stability. Traveling every weekend can be exciting, but you also want to explore the host city you are staying in. Traveling by bus or train can allow you to discover more about your host culture and is more sustainable.
- Don’t just surround yourself with other Americans. The best way to learn a culture is to engage with those who live there. Although surrounding yourself with fellow Americans can feel comforting or like a safety net, it hinders your ability to learn new things. By interacting with locals, you can gain a whole new appreciation for their culture and create brand new experiences. Naina Vyas’ blog, “20 Tips On Making Friends While Abroad” is a great resource to check out for helpful tips on meeting new people.
- Step out of your comfort zone. Try new experiences or food that may not be normal to you. When stepping out of your comfort zone there are tons of exciting new experiences opening up to you.
- Always carry cash with you. You never know where you might have card issues! Carrying some cash can relieve any stress of a malfunctioning card or can act as an emergency fund if anything were to happen.
- Make an effort to experience authentic culture, not just the touristy things. Be a traveler, not a tourist. Many mainstream ‘tourist traps’ do not offer a lot of cultural significance. Going to local spots and hidden gems is a great way to get unique experiences.
At the end of the day, the most important idea is that you make your study abroad experience what you want it. Remember this is your journey no one else’s. Getting out of your comfort zone and exploring new cultures is a unique experience that is your personal journey. To find more information on starting your journey, attend one of our Global First Steps sessions. This is a mandatory info session that all students must attend before opening an application, to learn more information about studying abroad. The CGE newsletter is another helpful resource that is great to have. The newsletter sends out information on events, deadlines, resources, and other important information pertaining to studying abroad. If there are any questions that you need help answering, feel free to stop by our Zoom Drop-in Peer Advising from 10am-3am, Monday-Friday to talk to a Peer Advisor. For any more information visit the CGE Website or the CGE Virtual Office.