Should you go abroad to study/work/intern?

2019-annualconferenceIs study abroad for you? Or intern abroad? Grad school abroad?

The great thing about these programs is that they’re a set period of time you spend abroad, and often they come with a (sometimes voluntary) housing program. Enough structure to keep you on track, enough freedom to adventure, and at the end of your trip you’ve accomplished something; a term of school, a masters degree, or something great to put on your resume.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if something is the right idea for you. Travelling is a long and expensive venture if you end up hating the entire experience. So how do you know if it’s for you?

You’re comfortable adhering to a super-strict schedule, and alternatively, you’re good at going with the flow and facing unexpected complications. Depending on your program, you may face either of these on a daily basis. A strict schedule can be stifling for someone who isn’t used to being told what to do. If you’re used to smooth sailing and enforced schedules, a plan that includes unexpected variations and unexpected plans can be too much. Ask your contact person with your prospective program about the schedule and what you can expect.

Even though you’ll be traipsing around another country with new friends, you’ll still have work to do, and homework, and maybe even a job. Self-discipline is key to success on these trips. You also have to live by the rules of your program; if that means no speaking English at all, or only packing one bag, be prepared.

Be ready for a lot of individual work (that self-discipline I just talked about), and a lot of working with a group. Yes, you need to be motivated to get some work done by yourself, but those weekend ventures are often with groups, and exploring your new city with your fellow program attendees will take many a night. Be ready to coordinate with a number of people and still enjoy yourself, while still managing your time to make sure your big project is turned in by the due date (or before, just to be safe).

You’re flexible; not just with time, but with food choice, street mannerisms, cultural etiquette, modesty expectations, etc. You may prefer shorts, but your destination may see those as a big no-no in public. If you’re a finicky eater, your destination may not cater to that. Not only does food change more the farther you get from home, but the more rural your destination is the less likely it is to have food locations you’re used to (there are still places that don’t have McDonald’s).

Are you physically ready for this trip? It’s an unfortunate fact, but if you have a chronic illness or know you aren’t mentally stable enough to handle a solo trip, you may need to make this adventure later in life. If you’re going somewhere that relies on walking as the main mode of transportation, but you can’t walk a mile or two? You may need to consider a new location. If you have a medical condition that requires care or regularly needs professional medical attention, you need to make sure your selected city has medical facilities that can treat you. These things don’t mean you can’t travel, but it means there are some logistics to be considered, and you may need to wait until you’re ready for the kind of trip you’re planning.

This trip should be an adventure – prepare yourself accordingly, and have fun!

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