6 Ways to Make the Most of a Study Abroad Experience, Part II

Part II of Chelsea Monroe’s reflections on studying abroad. Originally published November 2013, online student newsletter.

Last month’s tips encouraged students exploring study abroad to plan, plan, and plan again, choose people over places, and don’t forget to take your study skills with you! This month, Chelsea continues to share her thoughts with three more great tips!

4. Don’t take people for granted.
I was blessed with an incredibly fantastic study group of 19 people, including myself. 13 fun ladies and 6 wonderful guys. In any size group, there will be people you gravitate toward naturally and others you won’t talk to as much. If you don’t at least think about these distinctions though, you may arrive at the end of the semester and realize some of those people you only said hello to a few times were actually people you wanted to spend more time with. Whatever the reason, don’t mistakenly tell yourself that you’ll find time to spend with them next week. Because eventually, next week will be the week you’re going home and the distance of being at home will usually only dampen friendships, not spark them.

5. Honesty is the best policy.
Thankfully our group was remarkably conflict-free. But the few conflicts we did run into seemed to come from a lack of communication about desires, expectations and disappointments. This may be more of a personal lesson since this is an area I struggle in, but I think it’s a good reminder to everyone. Conflict resolution (and prevention) is tough enough between two people, much more so in a group. On the trip, I didn’t realize I had started treating someone differently because of how they were offending me, until they in turn started reacting against me and it became a mess of hurt feelings. Thankfully, after a couple of honest conversations, we were able to sort things out. However, a similar situation played out the other direction when unfortunately, I was insensitive to how another classmate was feeling about things I had done. When I finally realized things were not getting any better by trying to avoid a difficult conversation, we were able to talk and get on the same page again. Take the time and have the courage to lead by example with honesty, respect and compassion toward everyone in your group.

6. Balance the spirit of adventure with taking care of yourself.
When you’re traveling, it can be tempting to take every available sliver of free time to discover a new place and be the great adventurer you’ve always wanted to be. But I would highly recommend that yet again, you need to be deliberate (there goes that word again) about taking care of yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually. Maybe this is mostly for my fellow introverts, but I suspect extroverts also need this. Whatever recharges your batteries, calms your spirit and focuses you back on Christ, is what you need to make sure you fit into your schedule on a regular basis.

For me, it was getting up an extra 30 minutes early a few mornings a week to do my devotional by the river before breakfast and classes. The relative quiet, away from everyone, reading God’s word and listening to my favorite worship CD while watching the sunrise did wonders for me spiritually and emotionally. Looking back now, it wasn’t anything spectacular, but those mornings are some of my most treasured memories of my entire trip. Whatever your “thing” is, writing, singing or running, make sure to do it. All the new experiences you’ll be having will be exciting but also very draining. So take the time to take care of yourself and process everything you’re going through.

Image: “Goddard Interns Experience a Little Mars on Earth” by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, CC.