Study abroad offers once-in-a-lifetime experiences that promote growth as a more culturally competent potential leader. Whether you study languages and linguistics or science and statistics, students gain a new perspective by learning in international environments. Although the prospect of starting a new chapter in an unfamiliar location may be daunting for many, the school is there to support you during your journey. For those preparing for a semester abroad, follow these 4 tips for a smooth and successful journey!

  1. Safety First: Allow plenty of time for a physical and schedule an appointment with a travel clinic to assess the need for inoculations for your specific travel destinations. Resources include: the World Health Organization International Travel and Health Interactive Map, the CDC Travel Health Notices, and the U.S. Department of State Travel Alerts & Warnings. The world is a different place today, and traveling the globe requires knowledge, precaution, and immunization.

Don’t forget to buy International Travel Health Protection Insurance for each trip. Confirm coverage for medical emergencies and medical evacuation to the destination of your choice.

  1. Language Learner: If you don’t know the local language, start learning basic phrases and words so that you can ask for directions, order food, and engage in conversation with locals. Download language learning applications such as Duolingo as well Google Translate or as a dictionary that works offline so you can keep adding to your vocabulary on the go.

If you speak the local language fluently, take brush up on your conversation skills and learn to speak conversationally in the local, informal style they didn’t teach in class. Accept correction with graciousness and gratitude, and think of every conversation as a chance to learn and grow.

  1. Get Connected: Ask your study abroad coordinator about opportunities to become involved with student organizations at your new school. Reach out to colleagues participating in your international program. Contact the office of international studies at your new school and inquire about any clubs or associations you could join. Ask if they can put you in touch with a student who can show you around. Creating a network of familiar names and faces before you go will help ease the transition and facilitate making new friends! 
  2. Packing Perfection: Minimize your luggage to one checked bag, one carry-on, and one personal item. Purchase household goods such as plates and cutlery, hangers, and storage hooks once you arrive. Sometimes student dorms have a supply of items donated by former residents. Packing light makes side trips much easier, and will give your suitcase space for souvenirs!

Wherever your international adventures take you, be ready with these four global insights. Stay brave, be passionately curious about the world, and your studies will teach you learn more than you ever dreamed possible!

Sharon Schweitzer and Amanda Alden co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business,  Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.

Amanda Alden is an intercultural research assistant with Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She graduated with honors from St. Edward’s University with a major in Global Studies and a minor in French, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Intercultural Mediations at l’Université de Lille III. Feel free to connect with Amanda at on LinkedIn.