Updated: May 3, 2018
Studying Abroad: Immersing in the Local Culture
It might sound cliché but joining a foreign exchange program can make you a worldlier person who is marketable to both employers and grad schools. This is thanks to the numerous life skills you pick up along your journey. You could say that the mere fact of studying abroad answers many of people’s questions about the type of person you are without them even asking.
It is worth noting that many of the important lessons you learn come from experiencing the local culture. Self-confidence, socialising, organisation, time management, and independence are only a few of the skills that will develop exponentially while you’re an international student. If you’re wondering how you can go about this immersion, here are some suggestions:
Befriending the Locals
Even if you’re planning to specifically stay in Student One accommodation, you should have plenty of opportunities to chat up some locals. Your cab driver would be a good start as they know nearly every corner of the city. Market vendors, wait staff, baristas, and anyone else you encounter who lives in the area are also good options. This is the best way to find out about lesser-known attractions that have fewer tourists but are definitely worth a visit when you’re out from school.
Eating Traditional Food
In order to retain what you’re learning at the university, you should replenish your energy with some food. You might be tempted to hit up the typical fast food joints to save money but you’d be surprised at how affordable some hole-in-the-walls are too. While you’re studying abroad, you can get the chance to sample the local cuisine which literally gives you a taste of the city culture. Make an effort to know what dishes the place is known for and try them at some point with your fellow residents at your student apartments.
Volunteering for a Cause
If you really want to integrate yourself into their society, you should get a part-time job or volunteer. This enables you to become a part of the community and forces you to interact with the lesser fortunate, experience how average people go about their days, and learn more about business and community issues. Travel with a Cause has some ideas for youth volunteering that are worth checking out, including marine conservation and wildlife awareness.
Learning the Language
This may sound daunting but it will pay off in the long run. When you don’t have the time to speak their language fluently, make it a point to at least learn how to say “thank you” along with other key phrases. Consider this a survival skill. You never know if you’ll end up walking in the opposite direction from your student residence but the locals can’t help you if they don’t understand what you’re saying.
Travelling to a new place will expose you to novel concepts. These ideas may seem foreign at first, sometimes even downright weird, but they will enhance your knowledge and your own life. So, keep your mind open and learn what you can. That’s what you’re there for, after all. Remember that not all lessons can be learned in a classroom.