Education Abroad Global Ambassador: A Student Guide to Studying Abroad by Emily McTyre
So, you want to study abroad? Excellent choice. There are so many options out there for you—
a whole world ready to explore. The way I see it, studying abroad can be broken down into three
stages. Stage number 1 is preparation, Stage 2 is while you are abroad, and Stage 3 is when
you come back home.
STAGE 1: Let’s start at the very beginning. What do you do prior to take off?
• Get your work done.
Depending on your class, you may have assignments to do before you leave. I cannot
express how important it is to put in the extra time while you’re at home and finish the
work before you board the plane. There were plenty of times I was able to take
advantage of free time in the evenings and explore the city while my classmates stayed
in at the hotel to finish a paper. While you’re traveling, you want to be traveling!
• Planning is your best friend.
Look over maps. Find the places you want to visit in your free time, and buy tickets to
secure your spot at events. This isn’t to say cancel out all chances for spontaneity,
though. Sometimes the best memories come from experiences you stumble upon. Just
be aware of where you are, who you are around, and what you are doing. You can count
on your time abroad going very smoothly.
• Time to pack!
Here are my personal rules for packing:
1. Take people’s advice when they say to pack light.
2. Only take the essentials, and make sure the essentials are sturdy ones.
3. Leave a little bit of room because, you have to admit, souvenirs are great.
4. In case of emergency, there will be stores where you can buy anything you’ve forgotten.
• Ready for take off!
Whether you’re a first-time flyer or an experienced traveler, long flights can be draining!
Here are a few more personal rules of mine for flying:
1. Dress comfortably.
2. Listen to white noise to help you sleep. Jet lag is very real.
3. Bring a book and headphones.
4. Walk around every now and then to keep your circulation moving.
STAGE 2: You’ve arrived. Welcome! What do you do now?
• Immerse yourself!
I know some people can be anxious or worried about going out with a small group or on
their own, especially in a new and foreign place—I definitely was the first few times I did it.
But take a moment to consider all of the amazing opportunities out there for you to explore.
You don’t want to sit inside all day when there’s a whole new city laid out before you!
• Stay aware.
You always want to be aware of your surroundings. Check traffic and weather before you
leave for the day. Watch when you cross the street. Keep yourself safe, especially if you
want to go out on your own.
• Focus on your studies, too.
The whole point of studying abroad is to immerse yourself in a new culture and do your
work in the atmosphere of a new country. While you will have traditional classroom
meetings, you are also there to see your studies in action. The world is your classroom
while studying abroad, and because of its limitlessness, there is so much to learn.
STAGE 3: And you get to bring those memories and newfound knowledge back home with you!
In my experience, here are the ways I’ve been able to look back on my class and grow from it.
• Keep a journal.
I cannot stress how thankful I am to my past self for taking the time to write about each day
as it happened. Reading back over those entries, I can place myself in those moments, and
a million memories come flooding back to me.
• Reflect on your experience.
Studying abroad demands that you take a step back and look at your own life, and I believe
that is such a healthy and important thing to do. Ask yourself things like: What did you like
or dislike about your experience? What about the country’s culture and customs did you
appreciate or notice as different to your own? What ways of life can you implement from
your time abroad to lead to a cleaner world, a smarter mind, and a happier life?
• Sharing your memories.
There is no doubt you will have many stories and photos to share with your friends and
family. Take it a step further, though. Get involved with MTSU’s Office of Education Abroad.
Apply to be a Global Ambassador and encourage others to embark on adventures to open
their minds, too.
• Keeping in touch.
You will meet so many amazing people throughout the process of applying for and going on
your study abroad, especially those you study with. Everyone in my class became fast
friends, and we all still keep in touch. Strong bonds form out of experiences like these.
You’ll keep your study abroad friends for life!
In the end, the world is so much bigger than what we read about or grow up with. There is
magic around every corner. We just have to go look for it. Everything is out there for you to
discover, so why not take the leap to explore? Take advantage of the wonderful opportunities
presented to you, and don’t take them for granted. I can promise your life will be all the better