OPINION: Things students hear when they’re studying abroad

Kalynn Slabaugh

School’s back in session. Students are loading their backpacks, registering for classes and moving back into residence halls — anxious for the new school year. 

But along with these back-to-school normalities, some students also have to prepare to travel to a new country and adjust to a foreign language. 

Those students are preparing to study abroad.

This semester, I, like many others, have moved abroad. While my program sends me to Berlin, Germany, other students are studying in Australia, the U.K. and China, as well as many others, and these unique opportunities require extensive preparation.

While friends and family offer well-intended advice to help prepare their loved ones for this exciting adventure, this “advice” often lands on overwhelmed ears.

Here are the top four questions repeated endlessly to study abroad students that may or may not be helpful, along with some suggestions to avoid adding to their stress as they prepare for departure:

 

Where are you going and how long will you be there? 

With this conversation opener, be prepared for the student to launch into a half-hour discussion covering everything from the specific classes they will be taking to every spot they will traverse overseas. 

Are you ready to leave?

Despite a summer, semester or entire year of research and packing, study abroad students will still not be ready even a week before departure. 

The emotional journey of getting ready to submerge oneself in an entirely new culture is overwhelming, and once abroad the student will realize there is still so much to learn.

You should try…

Study abroad students receive constant advice from well-intentioned travelers about where to go, what to eat and how to act while abroad. 

These suggested tourist spots are often found from simple Google searches and the suggested restaurants often only found by chance. 

With all the other activities these students have on their agenda during their stay, there’s a slim chance finding a suggested restaurant will be on their priority list. 

Unless directly solicited or expected, refrain from giving specific traveling advice. 

Instead, ask about their exciting plans while abroad. 

This way, you’ll know that your advice is welcome and helpful.

Are you going to miss home?

Despite the amazing opportunity, study abroad students will miss home. They will miss chatting with friends, walking past the Campanile and enjoying Nick’s Hamburgers. 

The new, international experiences cannot replace their memories from home, but loved ones can help ease this transition. 

Offering them sentimental pictures for them to have while they’re abroad and keeping in touch during the semester or year can help. 

Facebook, email and Facetime are free with a smartphone and internet connection, so even if they cannot call, they can hear from you.

Hard work and time has gone into preparing this trip.

 Help friends and family studying abroad by following these tips and supporting them before they leave. Chances are, they will appreciate it.

 

Kalynn Slabaugh is an English major and can be reached at [email protected].