Discover more from Cyborgs Writing
3 Things That Make a Great Study Abroad Student
A good study abroad needs good students
Especially for short-term, faculty led trips
A good study abroad needs good students.
This summer I took 11 students to Krakow, Poland to research professional writing communities. The trip was an astounding success because these top-notch students were independent, adaptable, and ready to try new things. A great study abroad experience is one that offers students the opportunity to learn about a new culture, while developing valuable skills that will help them succeed in the future.
But students have to be ready to take those opportunities as they come.
I worked hard to make this trip the best two weeks it can be… but that doesn’t matter without students. They have to do their part to make any study abroad a success. Study abroad is one of the greatest experiences you can have as a student. You get to see the world from a different point of view. You gain independence and learn a lot of skills that are important in life.
If you’re a college student looking to study abroad, here are three things that make a brilliant study abroad student that I saw in my students this year.
Be open to trying new things.
You don’t always have to like something new, but you should be willing to try something new. For example, I encouraged my students to try zapiekanka, a Polish street food from Communist times. You either like it or hate it, but all my students at least tried “the thing that looks like a pizza, but doesn’t taste like one.”
You might not like everything you try. In fact, you probably won’t. But that’s okay. It’s how you deal with those experiences that matter. I asked my students to take chances. They could choose to go to McDonald’s, or they could hang out with the locals in the diving park. Most of them chose the latter, and I was glad to see them taking chances.
Part of this is learning to be social. I’m not saying that you have to be a party animal, but you should enjoy being around people. And if you’re going to be away from home for a while, get to know your fellow students. This helps you try new things and truly explore the surrounding cultures.
Remember that the goal of your trip is not to get a grade. It’s developing your ability to learn and explore. So, be playful. Enjoy the food. And just have fun.
You don’t have to be a master at everything. If you’re struggling with a certain skill, you can always ask for help. In fact, you should always ask for help. This is how you learn.
Learn to adapt and cope with change.
I guarantee that what students imagined about this trip was nothing like what really happened. Though I planned our visits to conferences and companies far ahead, you can never predict how things will go. One student wanted to ask writers at our conference about workplace writing, but he discovered he was being too forward and had to change his approach.
Another student had a plan to meet with public relations, but most of the people we met were technical writers or project managers. She learned a lot about these kinds of workplace writing and met many people who could help her get started in this field. Eventually, we could meet with one of my public relations friends, and she took full advantage of the opportunity with ready-made questions.
She still had to adapt to her surroundings and learn to deal with change.
Adaptability is key. It’s what allows you to thrive in situations where you don’t know what will happen next. It’s also what allows you to be flexible. You can’t be rigid in your expectations. The world is always changing.
And remember, you will not learn everything. You’ll probably be confused and frustrated. But you shouldn’t let that stop you from trying. The more you try, the better you’ll get.
Learn to be independent and resourceful.
I scheduled a lot of free time. Though I was available to help students find things to do, I wanted them to explore Krakow on their own terms. I really didn’t have to worry about this. Students researched fitness gyms, explored art museums, and dove off cliffs to get the best experience of Krakow possible for them. They did all of this without me.
You should be able to do some things independently to truly enjoy a short-term study abroad. You should be able to find places to eat, figure out the washer in your apartment, make your own friends, and do things on your own. I’m not saying that you have to be an expert at everything or not need any help at all. But you should be able to figure some things out on your own.
But you should also be willing to ask for help when you need it. That’s a part of being resourceful. If you don’t know how to do something, ask someone. You might have to ask several times, but eventually, someone will help you. And if they don’t, that’s why you have a faculty leader.
Remember that you’re on the trip to learn, to explore, and to meet new people.
And you’re on the trip to have fun … responsibly
Most of all, my students didn’t get int any trouble that I knew about… which is the best kind of trouble 😉. Oh, they had their fun… and late nights, but good study abroad students know how to have fun responsibly.
I had a few rules for this trip, because our goal was to do research. But I also wanted students to enjoy themselves while they were in Krakow. They could have fun, but they had to be safe.
It was a joy seeing students really get to know Krakow (many of whom had never been overseas before in their life), and I look forward to doing it again next year. Who’s coming?