Moving to a new country, away from the familiarities of home, can feel like a daunting concept. Yet, that was the decision I made when I chose to embark upon the opportunity to study abroad for a year as part of my law degree. In August last year I packed my bags and embarked on an adventure that took me across the Atlantic from University Park Nottingham to the University of Connecticut Law School in Hartford.
For each person, what they want to gain from a year abroad can differ but for me it was about meeting new people, learning new skills as well as experiencing a whole new culture. My hope was that by the end of my year abroad I would go back to the UK enriched in multiple ways and with many stories to tell to those back home. From my experiences in the US, I have set out my five tips to get the most you can from a year abroad.
1. Be Yourself and Be Confident
Going to a new place and starting at a new university can be daunting but always remember to relax and be yourself. As an international exchange student, people will be interested to hear about your background, your home country and what you think about your being abroad (Often they will be fascinated with your accent as well!). Be Confident talking to others about yourself and what you hope to gain; it will often be the basis for valuable new friendships!
2. Try New Things
A year abroad will present you with many new things to try, whether it’s a new sport, new subjects, new societies or just new food, but to all of these things you should take one mantra; try everything once! In the US, I’ve tried fried Oreos, watched an American football game and taken an American Legal History class, things that I would never have done back in the UK. Trying new things will make your experience much more valuable and exciting and allow you to really appreciate your host country’s culture.
3. Take the Opportunity to Travel
Wherever you go in the world, there will always be plenty of places to travel. In less than 3 months, my year abroad has taken me across various state borders from Connecticut to Massachusetts to New York. Each new place you go will present you with new sights, new people and new opportunities. Make sure you seek out the best priced travel and plan your trips around your university work, but when you get there, sit back and enjoy where your year abroad has taken you.
4. Keep in Touch
There will no doubt be times when you miss your friends, your family or just miss homely comforts. Make sure that when you are abroad, you have multiple methods to communicate with those you care about back home. Skype, Facebook, Emails and iMessages are just some of the easy ways that technology makes it easy (and cheap!) for you to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice. Keeping in touch may be slightly tougher if you pick a destination with a significant time difference but knowing that you can pick up the phone or log online to send a message is always comforting!
5. Save the souvenirs!
If you’re a hoarder then this is the best tip for you! My aim has been to take as many photos and keep as many souvenirs as possible to remember my year abroad by. Whether it’s state fair tickets, UConn merchandise or Halloween fancy dress items, each bears its own memory and will be something I can look back to in the future to remember everything I got up to.