Since many of our members are about to embark on a work or study abroad program, we want to give you some practical advice from those who have already experienced it and give you an overview of some global study abroad trends. Studying or working abroad is a valuable experience that will not only benefit you in your professional career but also in your personal life. Here’s how to make the most of your work or study abroad program!
Because experiencing foreign cultures, making new friends, and having an unforgettable adventure is guaranteed almost anywhere you study abroad, the deciding factor for many students is actually the local language. After all, one of the best ways to learn a foreign language is to practice it with native speakers!
A recent survey conducted by educations.com has revealed that as many as 31% of students said that learning a new language was a top priority for students when deciding to study abroad. They surveyed over 32,000 students from 192 nationalities looking for the perfect university or study abroad destination. Of those who cited language learning as a top reason for studying abroad, almost a fifth are specifically going abroad to take a language course.
While academic expenses and living costs are still the number one consideration for students, the next most important factor is the language: 41% of prospective students chose the country by language.
So where do prospective undergraduate students dream of studying abroad? The USA came in top position with the United Kingdom and Canada following in second and third place respectively. Sweden, China, and Switzerland were the least cited answers by students, coming in eighth, ninth and tenth place respectively. Other popular study abroad destinations include Australia, Germany, France, and the Netherlands.
Based on the survey data, it can be supposed that many of these countries are appealing to students who want to learn the local language. While learning a language abroad is a primary reason students choose to study abroad, 37% of the surveyed students reported that not speaking the local language is a concern when deciding to study abroad. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to practice the new language at home before flexing your vocabulary abroad.
Our Tandem team is a diverse mix of people from many different countries, all having first-hand experience of moving to a new country. Our wonderful intern, Mehr joined Team Tandem as part of her work abroad program and together, we have some expert advice to share with you!
The most important things to prepare in advance include getting any paperwork filled out, such as a work permit or student visa, setting up health insurance, budget planning, accommodation arrangements and packing appropriately for the weather. Mehr shares, however, more exciting things to plan; “particularly for shorter exchange programs, you want to make the most of the experience. Take some time to research the best places to visit and what events are taking place while you are there.”
Study abroad or internship programs are the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture. They are also a chance to learn a new language - Tandem’s favorite activity! Another way to immerse yourself in the culture is to make an effort to befriend locals. Expanding your social circle to have at least one local friend will give you a new perspective and a better understanding of your adopted culture.
One of Mehr’s biggest highlights has been traveling to different places in her free time. “I love exploring new cities and took advantage of living Berlin – the heart of Europe! Over the three months, I managed to visit Prague, Budapest, Paris, and Krakow.” Traveling is an important aspect of studying or working abroad because you get to see places that you wouldn’t ordinarily visit. If traveling solo, it helps build confidence and character, and if traveling with friends, you build stronger friendships and bonds. Either way, you make some awesome memories!
Tandem's advice is to be open to meeting new people, having new experiences and learning new things. It’s important to say yes to as many new experiences as you can because it will get you out of your comfort zone and improve your confidence. Hearing other people's stories and experiences will also help you build tolerance and understanding. With these new skills in your pocket, you will come home with an enhanced skill-set that you might not have ever imagined.
Our last piece of advice is to not lose sight of why you are abroad in the first place. There might be times when you don't want to study at all, the workload is too much to handle or you feel a bit homesick – all of which are completely normal – but it’s important to keep focused and to really take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity abroad. Utilize all the resources you have such as your university’s international office, career service or societies to help make the transition easier.
Every culture is unique, and experiencing a new culture is one of the most rewarding aspects of a work or study abroad program. It may take some time to get used to cultural differences, whether that be the lifestyle, the language or the local cuisine. Take your time and embrace them – you might even be surprised at what you learn!
Here at Tandem, we believe that the best way to learn a language is to actually speak it! That’s why we’ve developed an awesome app that allows members to connect with native speakers and practice 160+ languages. It’s not just about learning from each other, it’s also about having fun while practicing languages together.