Getting the Most Out of Your Study Abroad (During COVID or otherwise!)

May 18, 2021

We chatted with students who recently studied abroad and asked them for their words of advice to you—our next batch of ISEP adventurers! When asked whether they were glad that they had studied abroad during the pandemic, their resounding answer was “YES!”

Here are their tips for getting the most out of your study abroad experience and navigating any obstacles (pandemic related or otherwise).

Of course, remember to follow all local guidelines to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

1. Remain flexible

Developing a flexible and adaptive mindset is key to getting the most out of your study abroad experience. Even before you embark on your ISEP program, keeping an open mind and embracing the unknown will help you successfully navigate the ISEP placement process. We also think not knowing exactly where you’ll end up is part of the fun of studying abroad—and of life!

“You [placed] me at my last choice [university] and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I arrived with few expectations and after a period of adaptation, I found myself in the best place I could have dreamed of. A small university full of kind professors and a friendly group of international students that made me feel at home during that year. I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter so much about the place, but the people around you that makes the ISEP experience an unforgettable chapter.”

— ISEP Alum

2. Immerse yourself in your local host culture

One of the gifts of studying abroad is the opportunity to intimately get to know your host country and experience life as a local. While country hopping can be fun, staying in one place long enough to form roots is truly rewarding. For students abroad during the pandemic, it presented an opportunity to form more intimate connections with their host culture.

“Studying Abroad in Austria was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Although the pandemic put a hold on many of my travel plans to other countries, this ended up helping me to realize the true beauty of my host country. From meeting sheep in the mountains to exploring the endless streets that make up Vienna, Austria has so much culture and unique experiences to offer. Sometimes your most fond memories are made by not going too far and simple enjoying what is already with you.”

— Jake Rude, from U.S. to Austria

3. Find joy in the simple moments

It’s often the simple day-to-day moments we miss most after our program has ended—our walk to class along the cobblestone streets, the baker we bought our daily loaf of bread from, the view outside our dorm room. Studying abroad is all about developing an awareness of your surroundings and taking in the simple pleasures.

“Every day at random moments – let it be brushing my teeth on my rooftop terrace, walking around in the sunny streets of Guadalajara or sitting in an Uber looking outside the window – a feeling of pure gratitude hits me. It is just incredible to be able to pursue my dreams during these difficult times.”

— Tiia Huuka, from Austria to Mexico.

4. Do things that make you uncomfortable!

Study abroad is the ultimate get outside of your comfort zone experience. Out of the discomfort will come your biggest moments of growth.

“This whole experience has been a big learning curve for me. Finding myself and amazing friends along the way. Being more comfortable with who I am and accepting myself…pushing myself to travel alone and with new people. These are memories that are gonna stay with me for a lifetime.”

— Jessica Smith, from U.K. to the U.S.

5. Get involved!

One of the best ways of meeting locals is getting involved on your host university’s campus. Always wanted to learn to play tennis? Pick up that racket! Studying abroad is an opportunity to follow your curiosity and see where it takes you.

“I met a lot of people, including locals, one thing I do is go to Church…I joined the debate team, I participated in an online tournament, and I also joined a fraternity…I’m excited to come back in the future to visit them.”

— Joaquim Pedro de Miranda Baldoino, from Brazil to the U.S.

Our ISEP alums final word of advice: “Just go for it!” Seize the moment, know that nothing lasts forever, uncomfortable moments are temporary, and often lead you to your greatest moments of growth. We know you got this!

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