Anyone who studied abroad will tell you that a study exchange will be one of your most memorable and cherished life experiences. Still, you might have some doubts about leaving your home to move to a foreign country or worry that you aren’t sure how to prepare to study abroad. To really make the most out of your study exchange, here are some tips that might come in handy.

1. Be ready to go beyond your comfort zone

It is very normal to have “cold feet” when going for a study exchange . You will be treading in unfamiliar territory, new culture, cuisine, and language. However, the things that push us out of our comfort zone are what enables us to grow, both in a personal and professional sense. Be ready to embark on an unexpected journey!

Make the most out of your Study Exchange

2. Come prepared

Doing plenty of research before your departure will help put your mind at ease. We are lucky to live in a time where you can find a lot of information online about your destination, so make use of it! Just knowing things about the neighbourhood where you will be staying, what kind of food is typical, and basics of the local cultural norms will make you feel more at home from the beginning. Bear in mind that you can only learn so much in your research, so still remember to keep your expectations and mind open, so you don’t get too attached to the ideas you’ve created in your head.

[8 things to take a note of before going on a study exchange in China]

3. Set goals you want to achieve

Going abroad with a clear image of what you want to achieve will both make you more comfortable as well as make your journey more meaningful. Studying abroad should have a purpose, even beyond your studies themselves! Try writing down your goals on a small piece of paper and stowing it in your wallet – that way your goals are always with you on your journey. 

[Things only students who attended summer school in China will understand]

4. Educational benefits

The number of things you may learn on a study exchange is endless. More than just a classroom education experience, this is a personal, professional, and cultural experience. You will witness yourself grow and change as a person, becoming more open-minded, sociable, and accepting of others. You will be meeting new people, making new friends and having a lot of fun. While this will greatly benefit your personal growth, it is easy to lose sight of the educational reasons you first decided to take this journey. That is when your written goals (see tip #3) come in handy, to remind yourself that your career also benefits from this experience, as long as you’re working hard along the way!

Shanghai Summer School group photo taken in front of the Donghua University

5. Personal growth 

In contrast to the previous tip, it is important not to forget to have fun! This is an experience you will remember for the rest of your life. You want to remember it by the new friendships that you have developed, by the new foods you have tried, the unforgettable parties you have attended and the nights that are blurry from the amount of fun you had. So, while you need to work hard, don’t let yourself get so bogged down in studying that you miss out on this unique, once in a lifetime fun. The key is in finding BALANCE. 

[How to include international summer school participation in CV]

6. Immerse yourself in the local culture

Of course, you’re going to want to visit all the most popular tourist spots in the city. Learning about its history and famous sites gives you a taste of the culture. But studying abroad gives you the opportunity to also experience the local life and traditions, and take your understanding beyond tourism. Witnessing the locals’ lifestyles, values, and culture is one of the most eye-opening experiences you will get. You will start to see a whole new side of the city when you start to learn what modern life there is like. Visit the local market, try the traditional dishes, and explore the less known parts of the city. While you’re at it, find some instagrammable spots and take unique pictures such as these: The most instagrammable spots of Shanghai. 

Calligraphy lecture at Shanghai Summer School

7.  Long term benefits

Lastly, when you return back home full of new memories, friendships, and knowledge, take as much of this experience with you as you can. Employers tend to appreciate study abroad experience as it shows that you have gone through the process of becoming independent, open-minded, and confident. It proves that you are flexible, willing to try new things and can adapt quickly to a new environment. For this reason, show your future employers the qualities you possess and definitely include your study exchange in your CV. You can find more detailed tips on doing so here.

To sum up, it’s almost impossible to regret the decision to study abroad. The experience itself is life-changing and enables your personal growth. You will make friends from all over the world and have awesome stories to tell your closest ones back home. So remember to be yourself and make the most out of your trip abroad. 

Find out more about Shanghai Summer School’s summer programs.