Study Abroad for a Great First Year

College freshman usually want to find their bearings before traveling far and wide. Students often wait until their third or fourth years of study before they consider applying for an exchange program with a university in another country. The reason that many young people give for this wait is that they want to settle into the college lifestyle and identify an exciting major before shaking things up with a study abroad program.

This is totally the wrong way to look at studying abroad. The sort of self-discovery that goes into picking what you want to do for the rest of your life benefits in a diverse environment that challenges your views about the world. Studying abroad is perfect for creating this kind of environment and having a broad range of experiences that will help bolster your decision about a college major. Plus, studying abroad early on means that you can finish off your core requirements, classes that are often interchangeable between universities, before getting into the specific classes required for your major.

Campus life, university, college, study abroad, international student
Campus life. Flickr: University of Central Arkansas / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Studying abroad isn’t just for exotic potential majors like French or international relations. Even accounting majors can get in on the action. If you’re thinking about studying abroad in your first year of college, here are some things that you need to do in order to be prepared right out of the gate.

Study Abroad for a Great First Year

Get Good Grades

Good grades don’t just matter for going to college domestically. If you want to convince your advisors and your parents that you’re mature enough to handle a year abroad immediately after graduating high school then you’re going to need good grades to prove it. In particular, your grades during your senior year are what’s going to be most important for your application to study abroad. If you’re concerned and thinking that you’ll need a boost, tutoring is always an option. Also, don’t take it easy in your last semester. Those grades might not make it on your college applications, but they’re still likely to appear on your application to study abroad.

study abroad

Fill Out Your FAFSA

There are tons of myths about studying abroad and chief among them is the false claim that you can’t get financial aid when you’re in another country. This is completely untrue; you still have access to all of your student loans and grants since your program is coordinated through your domestic school. As long as your complete your FAFSA you’ll be totally fine.

study abroad

Prepare for Travel

If you’ve never traveled abroad before or never stayed away from home for an extended period of time, then you’re going to have a lot of things to adjust to. Get in the habit of planning your own meals and making yourself a monthly budget that reflects the state of your finances. Find out what the emergency numbers are in your host country (it’s not 911 everywhere) and program them into your phone.

Study abroad

Finally, be wary of the people you meet overseas. Many of them are genuinely friendly, but unfortunately it’s not uncommon for thieves to prey on foreigners who are new in a country. Find some friends that you can trust through your program and stick close to them when you’re out and about. It’s also not a bad idea to get a storage locker back at your flat or apartment just for an added layer of security.

About Nick Cesare

Nick is a writer and violist. After finding a penpal from Latvia he was struck with passion for the country and decided to study abroad there in 2010. You can reach Nick with questions or comments @cesare_nick.

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